Thursday, January 24, 2008

The semantic derogation of verbing?

The recent post on Buckminster Fuller declaring himself to be a verb has drawn a classic set of witty comments, the kind of thing that keeps me posting. A lot of the commentary consists of additional examples of personal names being verbed. While Fuller surely had a positive meaning in mind (and the Ridger's note on him saying "God is a verb" supports that), all these examples are bad, including Oscar's witty interpretation of the original example. Or more precisely, all the ones I understand are negative … I'm not quite clear on how to read "you really speared last night, dude", but I'm flat out assuming it can't be good. (More concretely, I'm thinking multiple police cars, court dates and expensive detox time.) Even the iPhone interface was announced to be verb-free.

The oddity here is that it looks like we see a change over time: Once upon a time, being a verb was cool, it was about action and doing. Sure, there were always truly rotten verbs in the barrel, like Judge Lynch, but there was good verbing too. Today it's all about verbing as crashing and burning. Fuller would do it, but what fool would declare himself a verb today? Sigh.

1 comment:

JHB said...

Well all the put-downs are fun, and perhaps "today" it's hard to understand what Fuller meant. But such comments are actually just unconscious put-downs of the increasingly polluted cultural waters we swim in. You've got to shut off your tv and radio for two weeks before you can begin to think sanely again.

Very simply (after the media detox period) it appears that Fuller sees how everyone experiences themselves as trivial subjects and/or victimized objects. They are condensed actualities, butterflies without wings. Ugh. Their potentiality, if ever it was, is gone now.

Verbs are not simply "active." Gosh, they could be passive. Hmm. What about deponents -- passive in form, active in meaning? Verbs move about in time, in mood. Verbs have that more-than-merely-actual quality.

Yeah. Well excuse me if I misunderstood, and an attempt at a serious answer was not wanted. Oh, yeah. In principio erat verbum. Verbum not nomen.