Thursday, July 16, 2015

Nouning of Verbs: Will the Coining Never Stop?


Sometimes after addressing a particular grammatical issue, another related one comes up. Such is the case with yesterday’s verbing of nouns. The flip side to that coin is the nouning of verbs. Like verbing, nouning is found mostly in business jargon. One that has been around a while but that has been coming up lately in meetings I attend is ask.

“Margaret, could Inventory Management verify allocations for a hundred SKUs before the weekend?”

“It’s Thursday, Bob. That’s an awful big ask.”

Rather than use the correct word, request, as a way of seeming more current, that which has been asked of someone is now nouned as an ask. It has not yet insinuated its noun usage into modern dictionaries, but it seems to have legs enough to qualify one day.

A classic that has been around a long time is a tell. In any bluffing game, most obviously poker, a tell is an involuntary giveaway of something you are trying to hide. It can be the death knell of a player if the tell is discernable, reliable and unknown to the teller. It’s a wonderful usage.

So, tell is a cool one and ask is an awful one; the moral of the story is, don’t ask, do tell.