Six years ago I wrote a short piece here about how certain people, and cultural groups, can be characterised by their speech as either verbs or nouns. I thought then that I was a verb. Now I’m not so sure. I compared the English/Australian way of speaking to the American style, concluding the former were prone to expressing verbs as nouns, contrasting the American tendancy to make nouns into verbs.
An example: An American would say “Look at this.” A person of English/Australian persuasion would more likely say, “Have a look at this.” There are numerous such examples. Just think about it for a moment. (Or, have a think about it for a moment…)
The point (or inappropriate generalisation) I was making was simply that linguistically, Americans tend to be more assertive, more pushy, if you will, even in their speech. The English/Australian approach is less direct, more convoluted, in an attempt to not be seen as … pushy. Offer an Englishman a cup of tea and he may well answer “I wouldn’t say no.” Can you imagine an American saying that? Me neither.
I’m not renouncing my earlier premise, but in the intervening years since I posited the above comments, I have seen examples of…verb-noun blurring that appear to infiltrate the entire English-speaking world simultaneously. I credit the Internet for the pollution. If not for the Internet, (why does my iPad insist on capitalising that?) I think the more egregious instances of verb/noun transferral would simply die out of their own inappropriateness.
I know you are waiting for it…my #1 pet peeve. It has bugged me for a couple years or more. I’ve seen it become “the norm” in advertising use. The word is gift. When–and, more importantly, why–did that noun become a verb? Did I miss something? I certainly didn’t get the memo… Why in the world did someone decide that ‘give’ is no longer useful as the verb? It still works for me.
There are plenty more examples, of which (in Australia, at least) many have their roots in the public service bureaucracy. I’m not going to canvass them all here…I’m sure you get my drift. But I would love to hear from you about your own linguistic pet peeves. Let’s make a list, and stand together–refusing to use these stupid perversions of our language!
Boy! I’m sure glad to get that off my chest! MM