The Chicago Manual of Style on 'verbing' nouns -- 'it has always been so'

The Chicago Manual of Style on 'verbing' nouns -- 'it has always been so'

Late in The Chicago Manual of Style’s section on nouns is part 5.25, Nouns as verbs. I thought it’d be about the newfangled habit called “verbing,” using nouns as verbs.

I was wrong about the newfangled part. The example give in the book is the noun husband, which in the year 1220 meant “one who tills and cultivates the earth (the husband has worked hard to produce this crop). “Husband” became a verb more recently — “around 1420 (you must husband your land thoughtfully),” says the manual.

But the section does have advice on using the more modern changing nouns, such as mainstream (giving the example “more school districts are mainstreaming pupils with special needs”). The manual states, “In formal prose, such recently transformed words should be used cautiously if at all.”

Nouns are people, places, things,

and sometimes turn to verbs.

But when they are transformed,

are we at a loss for words?


Margaret Serious has a place on Facebook. 


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  • Isn't mainstream an adjective?

  • Well observed, Jack. In the terms "mainstream media" or "mainstream classrooms," it is an adjective. It's also a noun, "in the mainstream," and now a verb, "to mainstream" -- to put someone in a mainstream classroom. It all makes me think I should put it on the "Words Worth Defending" list.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    Thereby proving that there isn't a rule of mutual exclusivity in grammatical verbiage.

    The example of which I was contemplating was "mainstream politician," but that's currently an oxymoron.

  • In reply to jack:

    The main stream in politics must be connected to the swamp.

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