Column: Verified, ‘text’ is verbified


Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

Did you get my text? I texted you; why didn’t you text me back? And don’t tell me you didn’t get it. You got it.

While many people grimace when they see a noun get verbified (verbified is a word, by the way), once the word becomes part of common parlance it’s hard to get rid of it. It’s as if the concrete is drying and you’ve got to live with the fact that someone’s footprint made its way into that square of sidewalk. It’s there; deal with it.

This is the case with the word “text.” “Text” started out as “send a text message,” where “send” is a verb and “text message” is a compound noun. But, since we demand efficiency (or laziness — you tell me) in our language, we shortened the phrase to “send a text” and then simply “text.” You see how this saves us time, don’t you? After all, we can’t be wasting our precious syllables or Twitter characters.

Naturally, the next question is this: Now that “text” is a verb, what is its past-tense form? I’m glad you asked. Believe it or not, new English words get a “standard” treatment, where any irregularities simply don’t occur because the words themselves are so novel. Because of this, the past-tense form of “text” is “texted.” I told him he shouldn’t have texted me those lurid, classified details; doesn’t he know that texts can be used in the impending trial?

I’m trying to imagine Irish monks holed up in their silent scriptoria all day. After hours upon hours of copiously duplicating the Gospel accounts in Latin and by candlelight, I’m sure they didn’t say things like, “I texted all day. Boy, my wrist hurts. But, hey, that sure was some high-quality vellum. You should’ve seen it! Holy cow!”

Although the monks didn’t use “text” as a verb, late 16th-century Brits certainly did. The word shows up as a verb in 1590, meaning “to write in text letters,” where “text” is distinguished as larger letters (as opposed to smaller letters you would use to write notes). Of course, that use of the word “text” as a verb died out, only to be reborn with a new meaning in our new smartphone-centric world.

I’ll leave you with this: Now that “text” is a commonly accepted verb, how about this one — “at.” Yes, as in, “I know many of you will argue about this on Twitter; don’t ‘at’ me.” Basically, this means “don’t try to argue with me” or “don’t reply to me,” especially on social media networks like Twitter. I don’t think pineapples belong within 500 feet of a pizza. Don’t “at” me; don’t snap, TikTok, tweet or text me about it, either.