Sunday, August 28, 2011

Noun Verbification

Don't tase me bro!

Sentences like this explain why grammarians suffer.

Of course, the verb to tase is a textbook example of a verbified noun. A strict grammarian would prefer shocked by a taser or subdued by a taser instead.

Unfortunately, both substitutes are wordy and unwieldy, and neither improves upon the original. It's also questionable whether tase is even incorrect. After all, common usage allows the words gunned and knifed, both of which are examples of verbified nouns.

So what's the rule? There isn't one--at least not a clear one that shows the boundary between proper grammar and sounding like a tool. You must rely on your own ear.

"Many nouns have lately been pressed into service as verbs. Not all are bad, but all are suspect."
--Strunk & White, The Elements of Style