Verb and Re-Verb

In the last year or two I’ve been collecting examples of new verbs.  These are usually existing words which have been either squashed or repurposed and made into verbs.  Previously they were either phrases (eg to manage a project becomes to project-manage) or nouns (eg to window, meaning to schedule a delivery within a particular period of time).  So here’s a little list, by no means exhaustive but comprising the ones I’ve managed to capture and commit to pen and paper:

to re-platform (heard at the railway station)

to window (seen on Facebook)

to project-manage (heard in conversation and rendered somewhat redundant by the phrase ‘I project-managed a project’…)

to part-time work

to offshore (as in tax)

to vacation (to be fair, this has been around for a while in the US but has only recently made it over here)

to semi-final (heard on University Challenge)

to sunblock (read just today on Facebook)

I’m sure there are thousands more.  Have you come across any?  I’d love to hear them.  Please send them to me and I’ll post them


Kirk out


Compounding the Error

Fair warning – today’s post is a bit of a rag-bag.  First: a rant about compound verbs.  Is anyone else as annoyed by these as I am?  What I mean is the increasing phenomenon of shoving verbs into one word rather than using a short phrase, viz:

to mystery-shop

to target-market

to victim-blame

to project-manage

There are loads of these and mostly I find them annoying and unnecessary, especially when people then go on to add, as I heard the other week, ‘I project-managed a project.’  So why not just say ‘managed’?

I guess it’s because it makes things sound more thingy; more official.  I could use the word reification here if I wanted to be posh and annoying, because that’s what it means – making things more Thingy.  Commodification, I suppose, is a branch of this – making everything into a commodity.

And that’s another – er, thing.  I really hate it when people call something a ‘product’ when it so isn’t – like, for example, football or education or the cinema.  These are not products!!!  A plastic bottle is a product; a computer or a washing-machine or a car is a product.  But I object very strongly to processes, especially artistic processes, being described as if they were churned out on some great cultural production-line.  Nowadays it seems almost anything can be described as a product, from driving-lessons to holidays and from trips out to swimming-lessons.


However, I realise that there’s another phenomenon of which I am sometimes guilty, and that is a kind of subtle, barely-noticeable Malapropism.  So, for example yesterday I wrote that the Partido Popular in Spain won by a whisper.  There’s something quite poetic in that, which is perhaps why I did it, but what I meant to say is that they won by a whisker. There’s a lot of this about; slither, for example, instead of sliver – but I quite like them so I think they should stay.  Just so long as we’re clear what we mean…

It’s snowing quite hard on here today.  I wish that were real: outside it’s just wet and windy and disturbingly warm.  Last night at Beer and Carols we sung an alternative Climate-change version of Good King Wenceslas…

Kirk out


Now is the Winter of Content

At the time of writing I have a deep sense of accomplishment, for this week I have not only finished  and sent off a short story about finding Richard III, I have completed my tax return!!!  Yes, it’s true.  It’s hard to say which of the two gives me more joy; the tax return because I no longer have to think about it, or the story because I’m happy with it.  Mind you, a short story is never finished, only abandoned (to paraphrase W H Auden) so there’s usually a sense that the poor thing has been sent out into the world half-made up.  Which, if you think about it, is appropriate…  (line 21)

Now, you may not realise it, but I have also been hard at work preparing for you a blog-post on the subject of… compound verbs! Yes, I know you’ve all been waiting a long while for this one, but my researches have taken me deep into the heart of the media and evidence-gathering has been slow and painstaking.  But now it can be told: there is definitely a pernicious tendency to use compound verbs where nouns once served.

Let me give you an example:

Until recently, the person who managed a project was called a project-manager.  But recently for some reason it is not enough for these people to say ‘I am a project manager’ or even ‘I manage such and such a project.’  No, they must contract it and say ‘I project-manage’.  I guess they think it sounds more neat and snappy, more like something real and concrete – but to me it sounds awful.  Politicians and managers are some of the worst offenders and in this pre-election period the verb ‘to empty-chair’ has emerged, meaning to leave an empty chair where an absent politician would have sat.  And today I actually heard the manager of Poundland saying that in her stores customers ‘feel free to shopping-spree.’

I ask you!  Isn’t that every bit as awful as using ‘party’ as a verb?  I’m with Bernard Black on this one, when he says ‘don’t you DARE use the word party as a verb in this house!’

Quite right too.

To be fair, it isn’t all compound verbs that are offenders here.  Some of them are perfectly inoffensive and even snappy and useful:

to air-condition

to babysit

to test-drive

to short-change.

But I suspect that’s because these have all arisen naturally from a need to have something shorter and snappier.  Whereas the others arise out of someone’s desire just to sound more on top of things.

Over the next few weeks I shall be compiling more of these.  If you’ve heard a compound verb which has offended you, send it in to me here on this blog.

Keep listening, readers!

I’m off now to watch Charlie Brooker, so until next time –

Go Away


Compounding The Problem

Yesterday I cycled 16 miles!  No wonder I was knackered: I went over to the West End and back, then into town to catch the Nanowrimo meet-up where people were doing 15-minute sprints and getting stickers; then home again to have a shower and catch my breath before heading out for the inaugural Duffy’s Music Circle which attracted a reasonable turn-out considering it was a rainy night and the first meeting.  Whew!  It was hard work, especially as I ran into the rugby crowd twice; first as I went home and then as I was going into town.  I also got soaked in the rain.

I hope you all enjoyed Graham’s poem the other day.  It would be good to have some more comments, especially if you liked it: Graham has been writing for a long time now and like a true poet, carries a notebook with him wherever he goes.  His latest poem, which we’re working on at the moment, tells the story of how his working day begins and of how his commute is often interrupted by needing to write down a line or a few words which have come to him.

We all know what that’s like, as poets; having to write down an idea when it comes – because let’s face it, if you don’t, it’s gone.  I had a brilliant idea in the middle of the night recently, and because I didn’t want to get up, I told myself I’d remember it in the morning.

Nope.  There was no trace of it left – in fact I didn’t even remember I’d had an idea till later.  Poetry is most inconvenient; it really doesn’t know when to pick its moment, as Graham’s poem illustrates.

But what’s really obsessing me at the moment, apart from poetry, is the phenomenon of compound verbs.  I had a whole list of these but I don’t know where I wrote them and now the only ones I can think of are ‘to project-manage’ and ‘to open-carry.’  It’s that thing people are doing more and more often where, to avoid using a phrase (I managed a project) they contract it into a verb (I project-managed).  This is horribly ugly, but also can result in linguistic contortions if they add further details, such as ‘I project-managed a project with special needs pupils.’  Ugh!  Just stop it!

And in case you don’t know what ‘to open-carry’ means, here’s a horrid picture:

Ugh!  Stop that as well!  How can anyone possibly think that to open-carry is OK?  Everyone knows it should be ‘to carry openly’!!!

Just kidding.  I hate guns.

Kirk out

PS if you have a poem you’d like to see up here, send it to me in a comment.