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On Nouns Becoming Verbs in English

In English we can take a noun and change it into a verb and the sentence still makes sense. I saw an example recently. There was a sushi restaurant on First Avenue near St. Mark’s that had a great box lunch special. For around ten dollars I’d get miso soup and salmon teriyaki with steamed carrots and broccoli, a green salad tossed with tahini dressing, and fake Alaskan crab rolled with cucumber in rice and seaweed sliced into six pieces, and a side of hot mustard and ginger as well.

I stopped by recently and saw it had changed into All You Can Eat Sushi. The lunch was thirteen dollars now and the place was packed. When I used to eat there, I might be the only one or among a lonely few. Now it was boisterous, full of NYU students (or Cooper Union or Joffrey Ballet), young Japanese tourists taking in the East Village, and lots of medical folks from nearby Beth Israel in their pale blue fatigues.

A waitress led me to a little empty table at the back and gave me an iPad explaining that I had to click on the pictures of the items I wanted, which was easy enough, but after I made my selections, I didn’t send them. I sat there waiting for awhile before I figured that out. When I did send my selected items to the kitchen, a message came back immediately on the screen: Send successed.

I wondered if the owners were Chinese because the English resembled Chinglish, the way the Chinese often translate English in funny ways. I used to eat at a restaurant near Wuhan University in Wuhan, China that called itself HOMELY COOKING. On the street, where there was construction going on above I saw a sign warning: BEWARE THE FALLING THING. And SLIPPERY WHEN WET became SLIP CAREFULLY.

Here the iPad screen in NYC had turned the verb Send into a noun, the subject of a new verb in the simple past, Successed. Success we all know is a noun. “I success, you success, she, he, it successes,” we just don’t say that but because English relies on the order of things: a subject followed by a verb followed by objects and prepositional phrases when we read SEND SUCCESSED we understand IT WAS SENT SUCCESSFULLY without even thinking much about it. It’s a strength of English, and not a problem.

When we change a noun into a verb in English, it usually becomes a regular verb with the ED ending in the simple past. “Have you ever googled your name?” An English friend, Peter Daniels, points out that “text” as a verb is irregular; he doesn’t say “texted” he says “texed” although I remain ambivalent about that and probably say “texted” if I’m not thinking about it.

The all you can eat sushi by the way was quantity not quality. The mushroom mussel soup was good, but the spicy tuna roll turned out to be canned tuna with hot red pepper flakes stirred in. This All You Can Eat Sushi will be my last.


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