“The Modern Practice of Making Certain Nouns into Verbs”

A commenter remarked on this, and reminded me about how many other people have done the same. So I thought I’d note that — at least according to my Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, the practice has “a long history,” and thus isn’t really that modern. Merriam-Webster’s points to “progress,” “head,” and “experience”; the OED’s first references for these words as verbs come in 1579, 1400, and 1588, respectively. (The 1400 reference is something of an outlier, but the next one, in 1669, seems plenty old enough as well.)

So you can like the practice of making nouns into verbs, or dislike it, or like it in some contexts or dislike it in others, or — most likely for most of us — be completely oblivious to it in all contexts except the few where you get annoyed. But it’s pretty clearly an old practice, not a modern one. (At least that’s so as “modern” is usually used in discussions of supposed flaws in modern English; if one uses “modern English” to distinguish our modern tongue from “middle English” and “old English,” the practice might be modern, but not in a noteworthy way.)

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