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Turning Verbs into Nouns

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Alan from Omaha, Nebraska, finds himself turning nouns into verbs, telling his daughter he’s glad she’s old enough to start to human and using jenga as a verb to refer to arranging items carefully, after the game Jenga, which involves removing blocks from a tower so that the whole thing doesn’t fall. A large percentage of everyday verbs in English come from nouns. Linguists call the process of turning nouns into verbs denominalization. An excellent source on this topic is The Prodigal Tongue (Bookshop|Amazon) by linguist Lynne Murphy. She points out two words that have made the round trip from noun to verb more than once: caterer comes from the verb to cater which comes from a noun cater, which is a person who cated, which comes from the verb to cate, meaning “to dress food.” The noun impact followed a similarly circuitous path. This is part of a complete episode.

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