Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt
Today’s language lesson inspiration comes courtesy of my friend Dave. As a professional language nerd, I’m thrilled that fellow English major wannabes are coming out of the woodwork to share their grammar irks and quirks with me. By addressing and discussing that which syntactically disgruntles you, I hope to make all the other Daves out there sufficiently gruntled.
Do you know what bothers Dave? The verbification of nouns, especially the word impact. Nouns like impact, access, text, Google and task have transitioned their parts of speech from nouns into verbs in our recent usage. Dave’s question is: Is this necessary?
The short answer is no. It seems that the verbification of nouns follows a trend in English usage that can either be viewed as a desire to be more efficient or as simple laziness. On one hand, it’s unnecessary to verbify nouns: The grammar column had a significant impact on me. In this case, impact is a noun, just like the good Lord of the English language intended. In a world where impact is a verb, you’d say: The grammar column impacted me significantly.
Although I think I agree with Dave that I don’t like when nouns become verbified, I think it’s just a matter of personal preference. For instance, I’m not a fan of the word process as a verb. When someone says something like, “I’m really processing a lot of emotions right now,” in my opinion, while not wrong, this makes humans sound like robots.
Originally, process was a noun. Then we created room-sized computers which computed the processes we inputted into them. Soon, in an effort to mince words, we said the computers were processing our punch cards to find funny cat videos on the internet (forgive me if my history is approximate here; I was born in the Orwellian year of 1984).
Now computer processors are powerful enough to provide robot vacuums with artificial intelligence. Am I suggesting the verbification of nouns will ultimately (albeit indirectly) lead to the robot apocalypse? I’m not sure; I think I need to process it some more.