Top Five Worst Cases of Using Nouns as Verbs

If you’ll recall, the Stooges often negatively impacted each other. And when I hear these words used these ways, I feel like Curly.

One of these just smacked me in the face a moment ago when I was innocently looking for something entirely unrelated. It came from a supposed institute of higher learning — although I assume it was written by an undergraduate intern or some such in the press office. (I did a word-study job like that at Memphis State in the early ’70s, for a dollar sixty-something an hour. But I wouldn’t have done this.)

So it’s time for a list.

I had trouble deciding upon criteria for this distinction. They aren’t necessarily the worst, although some a pretty horrible. I gave a lot of weight to their being overused. Some I could perhaps wink at if I heard them once every couple of years. But our ears and eyes are constantly hammered by these. They are ubiquitous, and therefore, in a sense, among the “worst.”

Here they are:

  1. impact — Don’t cite your “authorities” that say it’s all right. Yes, this mistake has been made for centuries — like using “they” to refer (in casual, lazy conversation) to a single person, which is a separate issue, of course. But “authorities” defend it because they have friends — academics, bureaucrats, and such — who think it makes them sound official, and serious, and expert. It’s like saying “persons” instead of “people” like a normal person. And it’s insufferable.
  2. gift — This one may be the most profoundly awful — particularly since the verb that should be used, “give,” is so short and convenient. But it’s not used as frequently in news stories as “impact.” and therefore is slightly more forgiveable.
  3. parent — Just gross. You can “be a good parent.” But you cannot “parent well.”
  4. partner — I couldn’t decide which of the “p” words to list first; they’re on about the same level. Seriously, what’s wrong with “work with?” Why the hell would you say “partner with?”
  5. dialogue — This one’s bad, but not as obviously so as the ones above. I just had to come up with five. Maybe you can come up with a worse one.

On another day, I’ll lecture the garment and advertising industries on the fact that there’s no such garment as a “pant.” “Pant” is what a dog does. People wear pants, and that’s what they are called. The singular item is called a pair of pants. Got that? If so, I won’t have to return to the the subject…

8 thoughts on “Top Five Worst Cases of Using Nouns as Verbs

  1. Carol Smith

    Also, this is one of my pet peeves, β€œ you guys!” I am not a guy and you is already perfectly fine as singular or plural. Also, how about y’all which is the best kind of plural for you?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, people don’t use it right. I used “you guys,” or sometimes “youse guys,” when I was in the second grade in New Jersey. That culture lacked “y’all.”

      It strikes me as odd when girls say it to each other.

      Of course, in second grade, you’re usually only saying it to guys. That was the age at which we were expected to avoid the company of girls. I didn’t like it, but I went along with it. I didn’t know anything about Freud, but on some level I guess I didn’t want the other guys to know I wasn’t really going through the latency phase. πŸ™‚

      It was easy to stay away from girls at that point, because they wanted nothing to do with us. But I was glad when that phase was over…

  2. DougT

    Suppose you have turned off relies on your neanderthal post. In case you didn’t notice, 23&Me have turned back on the “Relatives in Common” feature. It had been turned off when they experienced a data breach a few months back.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I never turn off replies. But WordPress tends to do it automatically. I wish it wouldn’t. I need to figure out how to reverse that.

      I’m glad to hear about the “relatives in common” thing. I’ll have to check that out…

    1. James Edward Cross

      I think it is fine to share opinions on which nouns turned into verbs you dislike. I am sure I could probably come up with my own list. I do object, however, to calling any verbing a “mistake”. The ability to turn nouns or adjective into verbs is something that is done in English all the time and has been for hundreds of years. Some of these words will fall by the wayside … some will fade away and then return … and some will become part of the language and we will not even think about how the verb was originally only a noun.

      I can just see you during Shakespeare’s time, “What has this knave Shakespeare wrought? What is this ‘gossiping,’ ‘eyeballing,’ ‘numbing,’ ‘torturing,’ ‘gusting,’ ‘drugging,’ and other such nonsense as this!” πŸ™‚

      Oh, and “friend” and “friending?” Our boy Billy again … see Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5, lines 186-187 or Henry V, Act 4, Scene 5, line 19. The guy was a champion verber.

      “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
      Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”


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