Unnecessary Verbing of the Day

Filed under:Blogging,Language Barrier,Need a Good Editor? — posted by Anwyn on February 5, 2008 @ 8:12 am

I love to read Anne’s LifePundit blog, so I hope she won’t be upset that I’m picking on her a bit here. As Calvin and Hobbes once ruminated, “Verbing weirds language.” And although verbing words may be a clever shorthand and perfectly understandable, like many things that are at first new and cool, after a while it can seem affected and pretentious. Anne’s use is one of the oldest forms of verbing I’ve observed in my lifetime and has definitely passed over into the “pretentious” stage:

To stay on track, I will journal every day.

To stay on track, perhaps she should write in a journal every day or even keep a daily journal, but to journal every day sounds both mysterious and banal* at the same time, like it’s the current hot fad that she will do because everybody says it will be good for her (and, in fact, a hot trend in all the various levels of schooling plus psychological journeying was indeed, as far as I know, the origin of the verbing of the noun “journal,” at least in its current incarnation). Now Anne’s a writer and she’s not keeping a journal because it’s a fad, but because she understands that this is something that works for her personally, I suspect. So remove the trendy jargon usage from the word and it goes back to being more a serious, thoughtful act of reflection than something she’s doing because she read it in the Oprah magazine. (Yes, if you’re wondering, I crack myself up, even if nobody else laughs.)

There’s the $.02 Anwyn’s Note on verbing. Don’t do it, especially when it’s popular.

Maybe for Lent, I should give up pointing out people’s bad grammar habits.

*I frequently look up words I already understand just to double-check that I’m using them correctly before I throw them up here. I’m going to link definitions when I do that, in case you also want to make sure you know the word or just want to see what kinds of things I find myself having to look up. Fun, no?


  1. I give up verbing for Lent. How’s that?

    You are right about how journals are nouns and not verbs, but journalling feels like a different process from writing. Writing is something outward. Journalling is something inward. Perhaps I write so much that I need to change gears when I write in my journal. And yes, I have volumes of completed journals and don’t read Oprah. All my journals say the same thing. Whine whine whine. But the world is a better place because I whine in private, which might also be why journalling is different from writing. In deference to you, I will try to keep my verbing to my journaling, which I can’t tell you has one “l” or two because it’s not really a word.

    Now, if you want to get me where I’m sensitive, that’s “effect” and “affect.” I keep a paragraph from the NYT Stylebook as my guide on this, and I still use the words with great caution and trepidation.

    I read somewhere that some components of grammar are hard-wired. Or maybe I heard it on the radio. While I’m arrogant enough to think that most of the grammar rules I break are done with full knowledge and artistic license, I know I’m done for with effect and affect. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve even verbed “impact” as an alternative. (Widely done in P.R. circles is my only excuse.)

    I’ve enjoyed your posts on word use/misuse. Will try not to journal on them, though.

    Comment by Anne — February 6, 2008 @ 10:01 am

  2. Maybe the world would be a better place if I did more whining in private, too. ;)

    Comment by Anwyn — February 6, 2008 @ 1:16 pm

  3. Please whine more. That will give me something to journal about.

    Comment by Anne — February 7, 2008 @ 1:35 pm

  4. Perhaps, rather than “go to work each day and provide quality library services for youth,” I will just “library daily.”

    Oy. This is why my first wife, while working on her thesis, used to shout at the computer screen, “I hate verbs!”

    Comment by Garter Knight — February 9, 2008 @ 9:43 am

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace