Grammar Moses: How aboot we discuss verbing, eh?
Guess who's hot in Canada?
That would be moi. This is based on a sample size of one, of course.
Someone named Bish, from New Westminster, British Columbia, wrote me to say he enjoyed a recent column that led with my experience with a VERB energy bar.
"I've just read (your) piece in 'Knews Media,' sent there by Reddit, and I'm curious as to your reaction if you were to hear the new fad around the tech office where I work," he wrote. "My manager has a habit of labeling something 'the ask' where I'm almost certain he means 'the question' or 'the request,' based on context. It's the same verb-as-noun situation mentioned in the description of a new snack bar called VERB. He'll similarly bring up 'the spend' when it's almost certain he means 'the expense' or 'the budget.' My mind does one of those comical double-takes from a Looney Tunes episode every time."
I'm tickled to have been found on Reddit, which suggests that I might have a modicum of relevance to those who don't yet qualify for Social Security, even if I have to go international to find them.
I'm sure I ended up in the hands of a Canadian because the second item in that column was about the Toronto Maple Leafs.
As for Bish's question, I'm reminded of the first time I heard or read "ask" used as a noun.
A dozen years ago I read a delightful little novel by Sam Lipsyte titled "The Ask" that told of a second-rate fundraiser's request for a major donation to his third-rate college.
The request in such circles was referred to as an "ask," the donation a "give."
It's a topsy-turvy world we live in, eh?
Every profession has its secret language. I've written before about copspeak and the idiosyncratic languages of lawyers and engineers. Not being in the business of philanthropy, I can't say for certain whether using "ask" and "give" as nouns is standard practice.
I have had brushes with people who insisted on turning verbs into nouns and nouns into verbs to sound more important.
A former editor was fond of "efforting," something that made me grind my teeth.
Another person would rather "dialogue" with me than have a discussion.
There are plenty of examples that feel altogether natural.
"Josie's wedding is coming up. Did you get your invite yet?"
"I did, and I can make it. Pencil me in."
"What kind of deals are you finding on airfare? Have you already booked your flight?"
"Dry toast is for the birds. I prefer mine buttered."
From Melynda Findlay-Shamie, my backup column editor: "I'm pretty sure I haven't seen this one: 'born' vs. 'borne,' hopefully with some cute way to remember which is which. For the audience, of course. This is not self-serving."
See, even good word people need a mnemonic once in a while.
Think of "childbirth." Is there an "e" in it? No. Then "borne" has nothing to do with childbirth.
Now for the 200-level class. What is the difference between the two words, beyond an "e"?
Both are past tenses of "to bear," but only "born" is used in childbirth.
Jason Bourne is something entirely different.
• Jim Baumann is vice president/executive editor of the Daily Herald. You can buy Jim's book, "Grammar Moses: A humorous guide to grammar and usage," at
grammarmosesthebook.com. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org
and put "Grammar Moses" in the subject line. You also can friend or follow Jim at facebook.com/baumannjim.