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16 Comments

  • Great post, Gill. In a text I’m proofreading at the moment, I came across invite used as a noun in dialogue. I know the usage may irk some readers, but I didn’t for a moment consider changing it to the more ‘prioper’ invitation. Invite (n.) has been common enough for long enough in informal contexts, and it’s what the character said. End of.

  • Refreshingly perspicacious as always, Gill! Now I know of your blog, I shall be tuning in regularly. And for all you other readers, as a member of a very large functional linguistic community, I can assure you that Gill has always been considered one of the best (lexico-)grammarians around. Over the years, we’ve learnt so much from her.

  • Stan: thanks. I wouldn’t have changed it either.
    Can you – or anyone – think of other nounings that are still on the borderline – becoming widely used but still annoying the anti-changers? Most of those I mentioned – ‘invite’, ‘ask’, ‘eat’, ‘disconnect’, ‘reveal’ – are absent from most online dictionaries (though not all from all). Other marginal ones are ‘spend’, ‘sell’ (a hard sell) and’ watch’ (a very difficult watch). Any others? It occurs to me that there are lots of widely accepted nounings coming from phrasal verbs: rip-off, sell-out, take-up, out-take, cast-off etc – this is a productive way of coining nouns, and it’s interesting that it doesn’t seem to make people angry like, say, ‘invite’ does.

  • Gill: ‘give’ is another such nouning, annoying to purists because (1) “gift” already exists, and (2) “give” already has an older noun use, as in “the mattress doesn’t have enough give.” Search Google blogs on “make the give” — it seems to be a logical response to, and possibly inspired by, “make the ask.”

  • Gordon: Welcome to the blog, and thanks, for these nice words. I was wondering whether you SF Linguists still talk about grammatical metaphor and, if so, how relevant the concept is to this kind of nouning.

  • Orin: I had never heard of ‘make the ask’ or ‘make the give’. You are right; there’s evidence for both. Actually the argument of the purists – that we ‘already have’ a noun like ‘gift’ – is spurious don’t you think? The whole point of using ‘give’ or ‘invite’ is that they have new, slightly different meanings from the so-called original nouns: an ‘invite’ is more informal; the ‘reveal’ has book and media connections etc. New nouns scoop out a distinct little area of meaning of their own.

  • Well, yes, Gill, grammatical metaphor is still alive and kicking in SFG, although my own SFG work on metaphor is closer to traditional concepts of metaphor. And yes, this kind of nouning would be treated as ideational grammatical metaphor, expressing ‘situations/events’ as if they were ‘things’, which allows you to quantify them, make them definite/indefinite etc., and repackage them as participants for use in other situations. I’m not entirely sure, however, how they would be seen to be different from the nominalisation that already exists, e.g. ‘invite’ -> ‘invitation’. One of the questions that we might ask, I suppose, is: what is the essential difference between ‘an invitation’ and ‘an invite’? Could many of these be characterised as different in terms of more or less formality?

  • John: You are right of course about ‘dismount’. I wasn’t really suggesting that it’s a recent nouning, or wasn’t intending to. It just happened that the phrase ‘nail the dismount’ occurred in the same sentence as ‘the final reveal’ in the Guardian book review. I’d not heard ‘nail the dismount’ before, although there is some evidence, esp from gymnastics. By the way, I’m interested as to whether your ‘har de har har’ refers to nouning as a process or to my cavalier adoption of ‘nouning’ as a countable noun.

  • Humpty Dumpty is perfectly correct, but I feel wary of nouning for the same reason I don’t like cursing: it’s nice to think for a flash in an attempt to recall an appropriate way to express a concept or emotion, or even to turn that emotion Onically into something more positive. When there’s nothing appropriate, by all means make something up, that’s how we all continue to live, but just grasping proximally feels lazy. (…And please do reply to remind me of the word for “grasping proximally” 🙂

  • I had never heard of ‘make the ask’ . Actually the argument of the purists – that we ‘already have’ a noun like ‘gift’ – is spurious don’t you think? The whole point of using ‘give’ or ‘invite’ is that they have new, slightly different meanings from the so-called original nouns: an ‘invite’ is more informal; the ‘reveal’ has book and media connections etc.

  • I was recently asked to proofread something at short notice, and the client said, “I know it’s an ask…” First time I noticed its unmodified use in my inbox!