Sunday, November 28, 2021

From verb to noun, on the rebound

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Some time early in our relationship, my wife set down a plate or cup in front of me and said with indulgent and somewhat satiric glee, "you sit down an have an enjoy."

I thought that was hysterical for some reason, and it's been a watchword in our house for 40 years. I often try to fathom why it seems so funny, and get a grip on the intuition that led Cindy to manufacture a noun, enjoy, by accenting the first syllable of a common verb. My lingering association is with "escape" in Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant, below (reproducing Guthrie's pronunciation):

After the ordeal, we went back to the jail. Obie said he was going to put Us in the cell. Said, "Kid, I'm going to put you in the cell, I want your Wallet and your belt." And I said, "Obie, I can understand you wanting my Wallet so I don't have any money to spend in the cell, but what do you Want my belt for?" And he said, "Kid, we don't want any hangings." I Said, "Obie, did you think I was going to hang myself for littering?" Obie said he was making sure, and friends Obie was, cause he took out the Toilet seat so I couldn't hit myself over the head and drown, and he took out the toilet paper so I couldn't bend the bars roll out the - roll the Toilet paper out the window, slide down the roll and have an escape.

That's about as far as I got across the decades, until Sierra Club board director Dave Scott framed up an accidental pun on Twitter yesterday: 

That opened the floodgates, and I've started a list of verbs that are nouns when accented on the first syllable (or, not to be too fussy, two-syllable verbs that are also nouns).  

The list is below -- and I'm asking you, dear reader, for more, here or on Twitter:


There are probably clusters beginning with prefixes other than re-.  Of course, you could swing the other way and track nouns that have fairly recently become verbs, sometimes overwhelming a prior verb that was nounified, as in "conference" (remember the verb "confer"?). These tend to trigger umbrage from usage cops, but that's ridiculous. The major word forms (noun, verb, adjective) are all fungible, and people will always and irrepressibly...fung them.

UPDATE, 11/30/21: awesome list from a carpenter tweep:
Along with


And more from Dave Marshall, to whom I cede all further thought on this...

I especially like ones where the noun and verb are not similar in meaning, like "entrance" and "incense."
Also, add "insult" (though not to injury).

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