Sunday, June 26, 2011

Generating New Words or, Unsubtitle

In the same way that "evolution" is a creation machine that keeps creating new forms of life (look around you), I'm always impressed at how language is, itself, a creation machine that generates new language (just listen).

I often read about "verbing" nouns--"gift" becomes "gifted," for instance. Less often discussed is how verbs become modifiers. For instance, the verb "install" not only moves from being a verb but also to being a modifier: I see "install package" or "install utility" as often as I see "installation package."

But Wait!, There's more! In a tweet last week, I commented on how "un" can be tacked onto almost anything (I saw a commercial that referred to "unlevel concrete"). So, from "install" we get "uninstall" as both a verb and a modifier: These days, we can "uninstall anything" and we can have an "uninstall button" or an "uninstall package."

Some modifiers move almost immediately become nouns--brand names, for instance. Technically, people should buy a "Macintosh computer" but most people, in fact, we'll tell you that they're going to buy "a Mac." Can it move to a verb? Can we "Mac" something?

Reading or read


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