'e-begging' / nouning verbs (e.g. 'an ask')

Discuss word origins and meanings.
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'e-begging' / nouning verbs (e.g. 'an ask')

Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon Dec 28, 2015 7:24 pm

The following quote comes from an article on “Crowdfunding or ‘e-begging.’” This involves asking for donations for such things as “the former baby sitter hoping to crowdfund her dream wedding or the stressed-out couple asking for money to take a vacation.” But not all crowdfunding requests are frivolous. “Sites like GoFundMe and YouCaring are full of ‘worthy donation recipients’ such as people asking for help with medical debts or whose homes were wiped out by natural disasters. But there are many, many others whose requests are patently selfish, like the mom who just renovated her kitchen and now wants her Facebook contacts to sponsor her kids ice-skating lessons.”
<2015 “Let’s call these ‘cyber-shakedowns’ what they truly are: ‘e-begging.’ . . The format of these social media appeals ‘requiring no eye contact, has made hat passing so easy—so shameless—that it invites brash unapologetic asks.”—The Week, December 25, page 44>
It used to be that when a verb (e.g. ask) was nouned (an ask or plural asks) it was something unusual and might even have been put in quotes (e.g. ‘an ask,’ ‘a give,’ ‘a take,’ ‘a reveal,’ ‘a get, ‘a tell,’. . .) It used to annoy me, but today verb nouning is so ubiquitous that I barely notice it anymore. Well, I do notice it but I feel there’s nothing terrible about this because the meaning is clear and it’s not very offensive and it has become perfectly acceptable (I think) even in serious speech and writing. On the other hand ‘e-begging’ is less acceptable. (>:)

An interesting article by Henry Hitchings in the New York Times of March 30, 2013, titled Those Irritating Verbs-as-Nouns has a nice discussion on this subject – however, he’s a little less tolerant than some, but still understanding.

I’ll just record here that the article tells us that these little buggers are nothing new and have been around for a long time. Here are the examples he gives:

solve – 18th century

fail – is older than “failure” (which effectively supplanted it)

reveal – a noun since the 16th century. Even in its narrow broadcasting context, as a term for the final revelation at the end of a show, it has been around since the 1950s.

ask – has been used as a noun for a thousand years — though the way we most often encounter it today, with a modifier (“a big ask”), is a 1980s development.

He concludes:
<“Aesthetics will always play a part in the decisions we make about how to express ourselves — and in our assessment of other people’s expression — but sometimes we need to do things that are aesthetically unpleasant in order to achieve other effects, be they polemical or diplomatic.”>

Ken G — December 27, 2015
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Re: 'e-begging' / nouning verbs (e.g. 'an ask')

Post by Wizard of Oz » Wed Dec 30, 2015 10:59 am

Ken for me when I saw your word, e-begging I immediately recognised it as a web related word. The addition of the ubiquitous /e/ at the beginning of words as a prefix seems quite acceptable today. For example, e-book, e-business, e-commerce, e-learning, e-mail, e-zine etc (not e-tc :}). To me this is just another prefixed word that takes the meaning of begging onto the web.

I do agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment of the article.

WoZ who dislikes nouning
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Re: 'e-begging' / nouning verbs (e.g. 'an ask')

Post by Phil White » Sat Jan 02, 2016 10:09 pm

I've been thinking intensively about the nature of nouns and verbs for many months now and have sketched out a few ideas for an article that I shall probably be posting soon. I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that many, quite possibly most, nouns that have not been derived from other parts of speech through derivational morphology either are or can be used as verbs and that, conversely, most verbs that have not been derived from other parts of speech through derivational morphology are or can be used as nouns. Furthermore, many such verb/noun pairs also have a corresponding adjective.

Just a few examples:
  • box
    The shaver came in a box (noun)
    Box that consignment (verb)
    I need a box wrench (adjective)
  • house
    The house on the hill (noun)
    Germany needs to house a million refugees, about nine hundred and ninety thousand more than the UK. (verb, albeit with phonetic change)
    House brick (adjective)
  • play
    He plays football (verb)
    The quarterback made an excellent play (noun - this precise usage is chiefly US)
    A playpen
In many such pairs, one form is clearly derived from the other (i.e. "play" is clearly the verbal form from which the nominal form is derived), and the derived form usually has a conventional meaning (in the case of "play", one such conventional meaning is a play as performed in a theatre).

What occurred to me was that the tongue-in-cheek comment made by Ken many years ago, namely "there is no noun that cannot be verbed", actually seems to hold true for nouns that have not already been derived from elsewhere.

I have been trying it out with all sorts of things over the past few months, and can find very little that does not work. Although none of the following are to my knowledge in use, people would immediately understand them were they to be used.
  • Would you cupboard the groceries for me?
  • We need to oven the turkey for at least three hours.
  • It's raining. I'll car the kids to school.
In fact, of course, the vast majority of such nouns have already been "verbed":
Looking in front of me, I have a screen, a pencil, a pen, a wall, a display, a keyboard (with some keys and buttons, and indeed legs and a plug, on it), some cables (or wires), a table, a chair, some files, some curtains, a window and so on. And, of course, my ever-present dog is by my side. All of these except "window" already have a fixed verbal meaning. (This does not include the printer, computer, stapler, speakers, and so on, which are all derivational.)

Gradually, I am coming to the conclusion that there is nothing essentially different between a noun and a verb, at least conceptually, and that whether a given concept manifests itself as a verb or noun in a given language - or, indeed, a given utterance - is not driven by the "nouniness" or "verbiness" of the concept per se, but purely by the perceived role of the concept within the overall utterance.

More of that later, when I finally bring my thoughts together, but do try "verbing" common nouns and see if you can find any that just don't work. I would be interested.

As far as "e-begging" is concerned, it has immediately entered my active vocabulary. It is wonderful!
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Re: 'e-begging' / nouning verbs (e.g. 'an ask')

Post by Phil White » Sat Jan 02, 2016 10:17 pm

As far as the origins of the term "e-begging" are concerned, it is worth looking at what Wikipedia says here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_begging
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