Thrift On, Kids

Headline in Dallas Morning News online edition, August 17, 2013

5 Great Places to Thrift in Dallas

In the past couple of years the  youth of today, God love ”em,  have spoken of going  “thrifting”  –  but neither I nor any other baby boomer I know thrifts; we shop for bargains. This particularly jarring case of what has come to be called verbing illustrates how the propensity to turn nouns into verbs has beefed up of late. Such conversions are nothing new, of course… but as it reads to me, the headline in Dallas’s daily suggests that to thrift is to, oh, throw oneself into a snowdrift, wander aimlessly from place to place, or undergo speech therapy to correct a lisp. WTF?*

It’s not that I refuse to accept the quite natural verbalization of nouns; examples like parent, showcase, intrigue, contact, access, voice, and host are as much a part of our current vocabulary as any other word. When it comes to more recent verbings, I write and speak some without a giving it a thought and steer well clear of others.

  • OK to this picky word nerd. The new verbs primary (in the electoral sense);  friend (thank or curse you, Facebook?); with teeth gritted, impact (which began to gain ground as a verb after World War II); and, er… verbing.
  • Just can’t abide it (for now, at least). The verbing of transition, (yes, a lost cause); vision (ever heard of the verb envision?); the sentence “The website just wasn’t architected right” (referring to the government’s ACA site and spoken by a cable TV talk show guest at 12:05 p.m. on 10/21/13); and the subject of this post – thrift.

If you think I’m picky, take a look at what an editorial in the UK-based periodical The Guardian had to say about the verbalization of nouns – and not a century ago but as recently as 1991:

Next week we bury 1990. Let us now resolve to bury with it a practice which, in the closing months of the year, seemed increasingly to be defacing the English language: the pressing of decent defenceless nouns, which have gone about their business for centuries without giving the mildest offence or provocation, into service as verbs, sometimes in their original form but quite often after a process of horrible mutilation.

For the sake of the editorial writer’s mental state, let’s hope he retired to a desert island. Were the noun guardian exposed to likes of term-limit, signature, and concertize, he might want to throw himself to the sharks.

*What the, er, fuchsia

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