How To English

I got home from a walk this evening and said to myself that it was “time to unboot”, meaning to take my boots off.

English is a strange language, as “unboot” isn’t a word – but it delivers its meaning perfectly clearly. To unboot is to reverse the process of booting. (It’s similar to, yet subtly different from, “deboot” – which is to simply remove boots, whereas “unboot” is to reverse the process of putting them on.)

There’s probably a word for this type of shameless neologising, but I simply call it “verbing nouns”.

I’m not the only one who does this. There are memes online of felines in daft poses captioned as having “forgotten how to cat”. Men in bars have been known to ask the bartender to “beer me”. And the English language has been doing this for a long, long time – and still does. “Polish” and “store” are both nouns and verbs for the actions we associate with those nouns. Some nouns become metaphors – to hound someone, for instance, is a former noun becoming a verb in a more poetic sense.

Verbs can be modified in ways the noun cannot. My act of putting on boots, “to boot”, also leads to “booting”, “debooting”, and the existing adjective “booted”. In theory, if something were to resemble the act of putting on boots, I could draw a comparison – bootily putting on my trainers, for instance. But there are limits.

Now to post this post and write some more writing.

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