To verb or not to verb…

Aug 9, 2012 | Language

There is a great linguistic huff going on at the moment about the use of the noun ‘medal’ as a verb. Athletes now don’t seem to need to win a medal, they just medal – which might seem a bit confusing if heard rather than read (Chris Hoy meddling with his bike – or should that be peddling?!). Purists are decrying the term, but there does seem to be some historical precendent – even that none less than Lord Byron used it in a letter in 1822. And now it seems the Olympic language has gone one step further, creating the verb ‘to podium’.

‘Verbing’ is of course nothing new, just another spanner in the etymological tool box. Shakespeare himself penned “Grace me no grace, and uncle me no uncles” in King Richard II. But it does appear to be crashing along at huge speed – everyday examples in technology alone include texting, bookmarking, googling and, appropriately enough, blogging! And I, personally, would love to be able to Summer at the Hamptons…

It has also had its critics throughout the centuries. Benjamin Franklin, for example, called it “awkward and abominable”. But the last word must be given to Bill Watterson, via the cartoon Calvin and Hobbes. “Verbing weirds language.”

But then I like my language a little weird – how about you?