September 20, 2013

Metaphorical grammar makes me twitch.

When I came across the headline "When Tech Turns Nouns Into Verbs," I got mildly excited -- would there be examples beyond "to google" and "to text message?"

Turns out the article is talking about verbs in a metaphorical sense:
Think about the phone you carry. You talk with people on it, but you can also open apps and transform it into a camera or chess board. [...] Whatever this object is, it isn’t a phone in any conventional sense. And that may be a clue to a whole new way of thinking about the world around us. The phone is a little connected computer — a device whose uses and meaning we continually explore and modify. It is by no means a phone in the historical sense. It is still a physical object, of course, but it is really a vehicle for one or another software-enabled experience. In an important sense, it is made to be contingent, changing with every download and update. That focus on the needs-driven experience means it behaves less like a static noun and more like an active verb.

Two points:

  1. a. verb is an object of grammar with well-defined characteristics, none of which are shared by an object that you hold to your ear or on your lap
  2. Grammar 101: nouns needn't be static (think "celebration") and verbs needn't be "active" (think "be" or "seem"),  so this simple dichotomy is below School House Rock level

So, next time you want to write about some vague, imprecise notion of a verb being a metaphor for twitching around, please choose a headline that reflects your more ....creative approach to grammar. Metaphorical grammar makes me twitch.

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