Posted by PEF Web-Mister on Thursday, October 27, 2011
Here is a list of body parts that are also verbs (naturally biassed towards my own idiolect).
to head home / head for the hills
to nose into s.b.'s affairs
to mind your own business
to brain s.b. (hit s.b. on the head)
to cheek s.b. (be cheeky to a teacher or other authority figure)
to face each other
to ear (when ears of wheat grow)
to eye (up) an opportunity
to lip a golfing hole, with a golf ball
to tongue s.b. (french-kiss s.b.)
to mouth some words / mouth off to s.b.
to chin s.b. (beat s.b. up) – apparently in gymnastics you can "chin yourself"!
to neck – "(of two persons) to embrace, kiss, and caress one another amorously", good God!
to throat the barrel of a rifle (make a throat for it)
to shoulder the responsibility
to arm s.b./s.th. ("armed and dangerous")
to elbow s.b. (hit with your elbow)
to hand s.b. an object/power
to finger a suspected criminal
to knuckle down (try harder)
to thumb a book / thumb a lift (hitch-hike)
to nail s.th. (achieve perfectly) / nail s.b. (catch s.b. out)
to muscle in on territory
to nerve s.b. (give courage to)
to pore over a book
to skin an unlucky animal/person
to breast hostility (confront)
to bosom s.b. (embrace) / bosom s.th. (hide from view)
to back s.b./s.th. (give support to)
to stomach a gruesome sight/story
to gut a building (burn out) / gut a person (disembowel)
to bladder – more normally "get bladdered" (drunk). But, of course, this is passive and therefore poor style. The correct form is "the beer bladdered me", or, in the case of "drunk", "the beer drank me".
to dick around (fool around)
to fanny about (same meaning)
to pussyfoot (move stealthily) – does this get double points?
to balls s.th. up / bollocks s.th. up (get s.th. wrong)
to bollock s.b. (tell s.b. off, give s.b. a rollocking)
to bum s.th. from s.b. (procure)
to butt in (interrupt) / butt out (mind your own bees' wax)
to leg it (run away)
to hamstring (thwart)
to knee s.b./s.th. (hit with the knee)
to shin up a pole/tree
to heel (follow s.b. at heel, if one is a dog)
to heel/sole a shoe (fix)
to toe the line
to foot the bill
It's remarkable how many there are. Including slang and rare forms, there may be more body parts that have been "verbed" than have not!
But, if I hope to follow in the tradition of proscriptivism, I'll have to disregard this evidence. As any under-researched news report will imply, verbification (the Proper name for it) is a stupid thing that was "inventioned" by Americans in 1997 due to a glitch on a Microsoft computer.
Or, so you'd think. Even the good articles focus on new uses that are nowhere near widespread acceptance. "Friending", "trending", "podiuming", "flipcharting" – what a weird and horrid practice this must be!
This opinion was confirmed for me when Radio 4 did a jokey interview with the chairman of the Queen's English Society which ended up condemning all verbings except "lemonading or wining" (wining being the QES's favourite activity). And verbification isn't even that old, says 'Grammar Girl' Mignon Fogarty:
"The first use of [the word] 'verbification' goes all the way back to 1871, so the process itself isn't new. Other trademarks have effectively become verbs. For example, it's not uncommon to hear people say they 'Googled' something" 
In my house it is highly uncommon! Grammar Girl couldn't even find an older, or more normal, example than "medalling" (winning a medal), which was invented to annoy me by BBC athletics commentators in... "1822".
With nothing more than a quick google of Google Books, I found earlier uses for some of the verbs in my list: "the wheat has eared" from 1815 (in the New Monthly Magazine); "elbowed" from 1738* (in the Gentleman's(!) Magazine); "headed by", in the sense of "led by", from 1683 (Gilbert Burnet); and "shouldered" from 1596 (Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queen book V).
Are we to dismiss all of these as Americanisms? I am sorely tempted, but perhaps it is time for me to learn a lesson. So, I shall admit it: verbing is not all bad. It has existed for several years now.
In fact, if we want to destroy it, we Proper English fanatics must start verbing! If we can engage in reckless verbification with gusto, we will be able to evidence to the whole world that it ridiculouses the whole process of languaging! I will verbification you into submissioning!
Alternatively, if you're still worried about "trending", and concerned that nouns-turned-verbs will continue to exist in other people's vocabularies, thereby wrecking English, just remember the simple rule, T.T.T.:
Time will Tell, you Twit.
* "Elbowed" was also written in 1603 in a translation of Michel de Montaigne. And "armed" appears in La Morte d'Arthur from 1498. So that's where we get it from - French!
Tags: "verb rage"
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