Archive for the ‘Conversion’ Category

Too much whelm

February 12, 2015

From Alon Lischinsky, this Questionable Content cartoon:

A straightforward route to the noun whelm: from overhelm, the verb whelm by back-formation, then nouning of this verb, to give the abstract mass noun whelm.

But this analysis is a bit hazy,


V vs. N

February 2, 2015

A Bizarro from 2012 (send to me by a kind friend whose identity I have managed to lose):


Verbing the Second Amendment

December 31, 2014

On ADS-L, a report from Wilson Gray of a headline

Gun-Nut 2nd-Amendments Wife to Death

(The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the “right to bear arms” amendment.)

I didn’t find Wilson’s source, but I did find something similar (by searching under “gun-nut second-amendments”), in this comment from John Clifford on Facebook about a story “One Policeman Dead, One Injured In Barracks Shooting”, here:

I get the whole laughing when a douchebag gun nut second amendments himself but a person being murdered while trying to do their job to protect us is never funny.

Meanwhile, Ben Zimmer linked on ADS-L to Nancy Friedman’s nominations for the ADS 2014 Words of the Year, with two more cites.


Verbing awry

December 12, 2014

(Warning: sexually explicit language. Not for kids or the modest.)

Passed on by Robert Coren, this message from the South Dakota Office of Highway Safety:

Looks like they were aiming for the verbing jerk ‘be a jerk, be an obnoxious person’, but missed the potential ambiguity with the jerk of the sexual idiom jerk off ‘jack off, masturbate’.

[Correction: it seems I was wrong about the SDOHS’s intentions, though the ambiguity problem remains. Reader isotopeblue writes:

Actually, if you go to, it appears they’re concerned with jerking the wheel, not verbing the noun “jerk” for an aggressive driver.]

[Further developments: Chris Ambidge on Facebook reports that they’ve pulled the ad.”Officials have admitted that the double entendre was intentional”, with this news report:

public safety campaign in South Dakota backfired when officials heard its “Don’t Jerk and Drive” push and forced them to pull the ad.
Officials admitted the double entendre was intentional, the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader reported in its story.
The campaign was based on raising awareness of jerking the steering wheel on icy roads. But, “jerk” also has other sexual meanings.
Department of Public Safety Secretary Trevor Jones said in a statement that he pulled the ad. “This is an important safety message, and I don’t want this innuendo to distract from our goal to save lives on the road.”

Several readers have noted that the story is a lot less fun if the double entendre was intentional.]


Word play, some of it uncomfortable

December 4, 2014

The “Back Talk: A Conversation About Words” column (by Ralph Keyes) in the American Scholar for Autumn 2014 takes up two topics: “E pluribus unum”, on invented portmanteaus submitted by readers (one of which is a bit uncomfortable for me); and “The -ize have it”, on verbing via -ize, with an invitation to readers to submit their own inventions.



December 3, 2014

Today’s One Big Happy:

permanent record, with the most common, literal sense of permanent — well, most common for adult users, but things are likely to be different for kids like Ruthie.


Leslie Feinberg, verbing, and pronouns

November 19, 2014

From The Advocate website on the 17th, this death notice:

Transgender Pioneer and Stone Butch Blues [1993] Author Leslie Feinberg Has Died

She was a pioneer in trans and lesbian issues, workers rights, and intersectionality long before anyone could define the phrase. Her partner [of 22 years], Minnie Bruce Pratt, and [her] family [of choice] offered us this obituary:


Adverb and Adverbial

November 7, 2014

While I was preparing a posting on xkcd‘s “Language Nerd” strip — I think very slowly and write even more slowly — my Language Log colleagues Geoff Pullum and Mark Liberman zipped into gear on the way language nerd is used in the strip in the expression (1), an instance of the construction in (2):

(1) to go all language nerd on you

(2) to go (all) X (on s.o.)

In my posting I referred, rather too hastily, to

the construction in go (all) X (on s.o.), where X is a nominal — here, a N + N compound (language nerd, sentence fragment) — converted to an adverbial in construction with the verb go

The problem is my use of converted, suggesting that language nerd (also sentence fragment) is converted from one syntactic category (or “part of speech”) to another, as in other examples in the strip, which involve true conversion, specifically the verbing of nouns. But what’s going on in (1) (and more generally in (2)) is not conversion, but the use of expressions of one syntactic category (here, a N-headed expression) in a syntactic function characteristic of a different category: in this case, not conversion of N to Adverb, but use of N in the syntactic function Adverbial, specifically the Adverbial subtype Modifier-of-V.


Language nerd

November 6, 2014

The xkcd, Language Nerd, for the 5th:

A little festival of part-of-speech conversion, with adverbing, verbing, and adjectiving. The verbs to adverb, to verb, and to adjective are, of course, themselves all verbings of nouns.

(The mouseover text introduces still another grammatical topic: “Not to go all sentence fragment on you…”)

Then there’s the construction in go (all) X (on s.o.), where X is a nominal — here, a N + N compound (language nerd, sentence fragment) — converted to an adverbial in construction with the verb go.

There I am, going (all) linguist (on you).

Verbing the bumpkin

November 4, 2014

From the NYT Magazine on Sunday the 2nd, a piece, “The Bumpkinification of the Midterm Election” by Mark Leibovich, in which bumpkin ‘an awkward fellow, a clown’ is verbed, by -ify in the title, by -ize in the body of the piece, and by zero conversion (or direct verbing) as well. The piece is also intriguing for its reporting on the rhetoric of politics.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 619 other followers