Monday, April 05, 2021

On "verbing", conversion, and anthimeria

In a 1993 "Calvin and Hobbes" comic, Calvin says he loves "verbing": "Remember when 'access' was a thing? Now it's something you do. It got verbed." As he then adds, "verbing weirds language." The earliest "verbing" of "access" in the OED, though, is from 1953 – and the earliest of "verb" from 1928. Hobbes responds comically: "Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding." But although "verbing" is often challenged as potentially confusing, linguists just call it "conversion", and in rhetoric it's "anthimeria". As everyday forms of the "weirding" of language, conversion or anthimeria in particular and rhetoric in general are not impediments but catalysts for understanding and communication. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 5 April 2021, for Jon Stone and James Sutherland Smith)

OED entry for "verb" as a verb meaning "convert into a verb"

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