Verbalising nouns

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Verbalising nouns

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Out 4, 2009, 9:27 pm

This headline was published on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation news webpage this morning.

"A Canberra adventurer has become Australia's first climber to summit the world's 14 highest mountains"

Summit a mountain? That is a new one to me. My OED lists summit as, unequivocably, a noun. Is this a new trend or lazy journalism?

Out 4, 2009, 11:41 pm

Headlines are allowed to break rules for the sake of brevity. Although that one doesn't appear to be too brief.

Out 5, 2009, 12:02 am

It wasn't a headline ...

However, my comment on the ABC page earned me a reprimand from the moderator who said that in the Macquarie dictionary (an Australian one) it can become a verb in a mountaineering context. However, my Macquarie dictionary does nothing of the sort - it firmly states that it is a noun so I am not sure which dictionary or version the moderator is using.

Out 5, 2009, 1:26 am

This headline was published on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation news webpage this morning.

Headlines are allowed to break rules for the sake of brevity

It wasn't a headline ...


Out 5, 2009, 1:30 am

The CD ROM that came with my Merriam Webster Third Unabridged Dictionary shows only noun usages, but somebody at Princeton thinks it can be a verb.


Out 5, 2009, 1:56 am

The OED doesn't list summit unequivocally as a noun. It lists exclusively examples of summit being used as a noun. If people continue using summit as in the headline-not-a-headline, the OED will update to reflect that.

Even if no one uses it that way ever again, I fail to see how the example constitutes laziness. English has a rather remarkable lack of morphological barriers to creating new verbs. Why not make use of that? In this case, the meaning was clear to me immediately, and the concept seems to be of the sort for which one can reasonably expect there be a verb.

Out 5, 2009, 2:22 am

"Summit" as a verb has been established in mountaineering texts for quite a while now.
Here is one example: "In 2003 my sister and I summited Mt. Everest via the North- Northeast ridge."

In general I also have some distaste for turning nouns into verbs when perfectly serviceable verbs are already on hand. However, if speakers and writers of English find the verbalized noun useful, then the verb will take hold. And eventually the dictionaries will follow.

Out 5, 2009, 2:52 am


Ah - I see what you mean. The headline was along the same lines but the quote which I used was the first sentence of the news item.

Out 5, 2009, 3:46 am

I can understand brevity and neologisms in titles or opening sentences, but, in this particular case, couldn't the sentence be rephrased as:
A Canberra adventurer has become the first Australian to climb the world's 14 highest mountains.
Briefer and methinks correct. Am I wrong?

Out 5, 2009, 4:49 am


Climb doesn't necessarily mean you were successful at reaching the summit.

Out 5, 2009, 6:20 am

#10: Ah, I see... Subtle difference.

Out 5, 2009, 8:25 am

Verbalising nouns? I call it nouning. ;-)

Out 5, 2009, 1:40 pm

#12: No, it would be verbing. "Nouning" is an example of verbing, but it doesn't mean the same thing as verbing.

Out 5, 2009, 1:42 pm

Verbing nouns doubleplusgood newspeak.

Out 5, 2009, 1:47 pm

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Out 5, 2009, 2:01 pm

This is just a tempest in a teapot. English, ever since it lost most of its morphological changes to indicate the use of a word in a sentence, has been doing this sort of thing. I think it's very convenient, and makes it easy to coin a word without having to explain what it means.

"A Canberra adventurer has become Australia's first climber to -------- the world's 14 highest mountains"

The place in the sentence indicated that a verb should be there, so verb it is. They COULD have used "have reached the summit of," but this is compact and brief. Saves ink and breath.

Out 5, 2009, 3:46 pm

#16> Saves ink and breath...

Which is important at altitude.

Editado: Out 5, 2009, 3:49 pm

Oh, well, poets have been doing odd things to the language for ages. e e cummings didn't just verb nouns, he nouned pronouns and other related fun:
"anyone lived in a pretty how town
with up so floating many bells down. . ."

Out 5, 2009, 5:59 pm

Actually, although one could substitute the more traditional verb "mount," it would seem a little silly to say that he mounted the mountains.

Out 29, 2009, 11:52 am

I give you no less an authority than Bucky Katt, who asserts that "You can wordify anything if you just verb it." Surely that settles the matter?

Out 29, 2009, 3:35 pm

Huh. It's amazing how many people think dictionaries regulate a language, instead of recording it.

Out 29, 2009, 4:56 pm

>21 Widsith: Well, we do, or at least some of us, do consult dictionaries when we are unsure of what we should say or write; we have been taught to use the dictionary as some sort of authority. We must not have been taught the whole story, though! Funny, that, for any dictionary save some tiny ones or those for small children will include some introductory remarks including some hints at the "prescriptive/descriptive" issue.

Just because we can read doesn't insure we will, alas.

Out 29, 2009, 9:32 pm

Out 30, 2009, 12:09 pm

#23 Fascinating. Thank you. *runs off to edit a couple posts on other threads".

Jan 15, 2010, 6:06 pm

He was a fine poet. That gave him certain rights the rest of us should not assume we have.

Do you gift your loved-ones on their birthdays?

Do you detrain at Grand Central?

Most often, this is a question of taste. Most neologisms are the leisure suits of language, fortunately just as ephemeral as they are unattractive.

Maio 1, 2010, 3:15 pm

I love to verb and agree with Harris of "Life and Loves of ~" fame) that verbing is one of English's strengths.

We should celebrate it and not only associate it with usages we find odd.

Verbing comes so naturally to many of us that we just do it and I would guess that most neologisms that are nothing but that are probably not new but simply un-noted.

Alexander Haig died recently. Perhaps you can recall that his verbing in the 1970's was so free that Newsweek or Time (I forget which) did an article on it. I am afraid it was not appreciated.

Jun 15, 2010, 3:19 pm

Language is something that must change to meet the needs of the society that uses it. This may not apply to this headline, but I have asked myself this exact question about making a noun into a verb. Linguistically it is allowable. However, this should be wisely examined-- certain verbs are already in existence that meet the needs of the sentence. Just look at a thesaurus. There are some instances in recent history that come to mind as completely allowable: e-mail, text... Sometimes it is necessary, but most often it is just evidence of being at a loss for words.

Jun 19, 2010, 8:09 am

Nickphilos, i think that whether or not a verb already exists is less importance than brevity, beauty and other stylistic factors. But, sure, there are some great old underused verbs that might be revived. Unfortunately, most not already in use are opaque to the reader, while use of a known noun will at least be understood.

Regarding "summit," it is preferable to "conquer," but the sport itself seems more problematic to me than the words used to describe it. When the fossil fuel used (even when rescues are not mounted) is considered, it is every bit as irresponsible as the trophy-collecting big-game hunting of the past, imho. Don't get me wrong, climbing itself is wonderful, so long as the trip itself does not involve flying. John Muir who did it all on foot is my hero.

Jun 23, 2010, 6:55 am

The word 'scale' exists as an acceptable alternative to 'conquer'. The OED explicitly indicates that its meanings include reaching the top of a mountain, although simply ascending it is also included.

I almost wish you hadn't opened the 'sport' can of worms, keigu, but since you have, I must say that I've never grasped what makes something a sport. Something to do with winning or losing, perhaps? Then why not all games, including 'computer games'? Why not international banking? And what's sporting about chasing at breakneck speed around a deliberately bendy piece of road, burning fossil fuels, all so that the 'winner' can throw away an expensive beverage whose consumption before the 'race' would seriously impair his ability?

Editado: Jun 23, 2010, 9:53 am

Clifford, I too was not big on sport, the word at least, until coming across it in Victorian era biology, after which I came to like it; but there is another talk for disliked phrases and probably one for words, so let us can this conversation (that "can" being what English does better than any other language I know of, and an example of why we ought to be more aware of the merits of verbing, as Harris was).

Jun 24, 2010, 11:07 am

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