Verbing Weirds Language

A colleague recently made a startling announcement. He reported that on a short-hop flight, an attendant had apologized to her parched passengers because time had not allowed them to be “beveraged,” but not to worry, for they would be “beveraged” on their connecting flights.

Bemused, he announced, “I got verbed.”

Now he didn’t know it, but he was echoing Calvin, who once informed Hobbes, “I like to verb words,” referring to an unaccountable tendency among speakers of contemporary English to convert nouns into verbs. [Sidebar: I know from sad experience that any mention of anything having to do with grammar immediately induces either extreme narcolepsy or feelings of total inadequacy]

Calvin concluded that “Verbing weirds language,” – but does it?

The plain fact is, I don’t know. Fads and fashions come and go in English usage, just as they do with clothing; yesterday’s paisley shirt evolves into today’s Patagonia vest. I’m not an English teacher anymore, partly because I’m not sure I speak English anymore, at least not the English spoken by others, like the flight attendant. I feel a sense of disequilibrium when I watch TV cooking shows and food gets “plated”—not electroplated (like covered in chrome), but meaning, I think, that “a minuscule portion of food gets arranged artfully on a plate by a sous-chef.” Then, I know I speak a different tongue.

Lots of words that started out as nouns—as things—have gotten verbed. Take knife, spear, lance, gun, club, torpedo, and torch, all nice martial words. We raise nary an eyebrow when we read that a person has been knifed, speared, lanced, gunned (down), or clubbed, or when a ship is torpedoed and a building torched. But can someone please explain why the nouns “arrow” and “blunt object” can’t similarly be verbed so that an elk is “arrowed” or a crime victim “blunt-objected”? If a building can be bombed with a bomb, why can’t one be missiled with a missile? I have no explanation.

English purists, and I guess I’m one, like to skewer those who commit what they see as outrages on the language, like “beveraged.” [Brief sidebar: Notice that the noun “skewer” has gotten verbed into “to skewer.”] There’s something business-jargony and big-city new-fangled about a lot of contemporary verbing, as in “to task” or “to impact” or “to access.” Some of it just seems lazy, like “to garage” a car. But if we can “sheathe” a sword, or “holster” a weapon, or “bottle” wine, or “can” peaches, or “box” Christmas presents, why can’t we “garage” a car? If we “fish” for fish, why don’t we “deer” for deer? If our toddlers are “teething,” why aren’t they ever, say, “hairing”? Can’t help you there.

And this raises a whole swarm of other questions that make English ultimately unknowable. We “breakfast” and “lunch,” but we don’t “dinner.” We do things “nightly,” like snack on snacks (though we don’t chip on chips, but we do chip golfballs but try not to chip china). So why don’t we ever do anything “morningly,” or “afternoonly,” or “eveningly”? Can’t help you on that either.

Hobbes thought he had the final word: “Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding.” Yet somehow the mother tongue will endure, growing and adapting with each new generation. True, she’s a fickle mistress, a creature of crotchets and quiddities. But that’s what makes her enormous good fun.

Genuine marketing doublespeak. Yes, these beauties actually are REAL.

“To reach our full potential, we consume a spectrum of technologies to reach the perfect solution”

“Our strategists developed positioning that angled this curatorial expertise to the forefront of the new brand”

“Visually dynamic, the emblem also represents the diversity of our converged solutions”

“We combined this with strong typography which portrayed a more dominant entity”

“The visual design language, which we refer to simply as “lights,” is meant to evoke the interplay of lights from a live show while symbolizing the flow of music from artists to listeners”

“Orange has been selected as it helps reflect its values of ‘togetherness, warmth and confidence”

“The hexagon shaped surrounding highlights risers’ action to drive into the modern world”

“Letters that had thicker and thinner strokes – conveying the subjective and editorial nature of some of what we do”

“A shape that would speak to our brand values of exploration and movement”

“Green encompasses the mental clarity and optimism of yellow with the emotional calm and insight of blue”

To see more – if you can stand it – click here

Logo Design Gone Wrong


Kudawara Pharmacy

The Arlington Pediatric Center is certainly gaining some unwanted publicity when this logo design gone impossibly wrong. While the center may employ wonderful physicians, the public will forever misperceive its services because of this tragic logo.



Kudawara Pharmacy
No explanation is needed on why this logo from Kudawara Pharmacy has gained such widespread public attention. It leaves one wondering what services are offered inside those doors.



Proper capitalisation and a space between the words of the KidsExchange logo could have saved this company a great deal of embarrassment.


Many customers may think twice about entering a MegaFlicks store after reading this logo. Lesson to learn: Use fonts carefully or you may regret the results.


Junior Jazz Dance Class
The black-and-white images in this logo create an unintended optical illusion. One begins to wonder if it’s a junior dance centre or an adult entertainment club.


Instituto de Estudos Orientais
This logo was intended to portray the sun behind a yellow building, but the simple use of two black lines on the building’s roof creates a very different image.



Clinica Dental
After releasing this logo, Clinica Dental is likely now jokingly referred to as a ‘full-service’ practitioner.




The Computer Doctors
This logo wouldn’t be so bad if only the mouse didn’t look so much like a… well, just view the photo and pass your own judgment.


I was rounding off an Instant Message chat with a German client. I intended to say “Let me know if I can help further”. Instead, my clumsy fingers typed and sent the following before I could stop myself:

ME: Let me know if I can help fuhrer.

10 Phrases Designers Hate Hearing (And What We Wish We Could Say Back)

Sometimes it really feels like the design business would be amazing if it wasn’t for all those damned clients. Unfortunately, we usually have to bite our tongues when a client makes a stupid request that’s going to make our lives harder. Here’s a little catharsis for you.

“I can’t really explain what I’m looking for, but I’ll know it when I see it.
That’s OK, because I’m also a part-time psychic, so guessing what you want based on no information shouldn’t be a problem. Oh, wait I’m getting a premonition… I see this project costing you huge amounts of money.

“My wife/daughter/nephew/friend has an eye for this kind of thing. Maybe they can help you design it.”
Perfect. I’ll just add my babysitting charge onto the quote I provided you, then we’ll be ready to get started! Just so you know, my babysitting rate is actually 3 times what I charge for design.

“Can you give me the design as a Word document so I can make changes myself?”
You know, you’ll never believe it but not one of my design programs has a function to export to Word. It must be some kind of conspiracy because Word is clearly the best tool for the job. Oh, that reminds me: I ran into your mechanic. He wants you to call him because he has some questions about your request that he rebuild your engine out of Lego so you can do your own repairs.

“I started doing this myself, but ran into problems, so it shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes to polish up what I’ve done.”
I always say the most rewarding part of my job is trying to salvage someone else’s mess. Just give me a moment here, I need to phone my electrician to tell him how easy it’s going to be for him to fix my home wiring job. Oh, that reminds me… I need to call the fire department too.

“I’ve been meaning to call you for weeks now. The deadline is tomorrow.”
Oh, good. It’s so handy that the universe works in such strange ways that a project magically takes less time if you leave it until the last minute. I also had a feeling that you might call, so I told all my other clients to take a hike so I could drop everything to do your project.

“I’m not an artist, but here’s how I would do it.”
Thank you so much. It’s really a pain for me when I have to use my skills and professional judgement on a project. In fact, I find that the most effective way to get anything done is to hire a professional, then tell them how to do their job. Later today I’m going to tell my doctor how to perform my colonoscopy.

“I can’t afford a logo design right now. Can you just design me a business card and come up with some sort of logo while you’re at it.”
No problem. I’ll get on it right after I order my lunch. I can’t afford a hamburger, so I’m going to order a pickle, then ask them to just throw a hamburger underneath it while they’re at it.

“I don’t have a copy of our logo, but you can get it off our website”
No worries. I don’t bother keeping track of things that are important to my business either. That 100 pixel wide gif from your website will look awesome in the billboard I’m designing for you.

“Sure, I supplied the text and signed off on the proof, but you really should have noticed that obvious typo. I really think you should pay for the 100,000 copies of the brochure that are already printed.”
You must have noticed our free scape-goat service where we accept responsibility for all our clients’ mistakes. It’s very popular and has made us the top charitable organization in the country. On the downside, we’re $50 million in debt.

“We haven’t actually got the content for the brochure done yet. Can you just go ahead and design it, then we’ll give you the content afterwards?”
That’s a great idea. I’ll just block out some space in random sizes, then if you give me too much I’ll just remove random words and images until it fits, and if you give me too little I’ll just fill the space with pictures of my butt and a collection of my favorite curse words.

Cut your advertising budgets at your peril

We live in an era of belt-tightening and austerity; economies must be made. And advertising is an easy target.
The reason: we can all use Microsoft Publisher, right? – and right now we can’t afford to pay someone to do something we can do ourselves….

This argument is understandable. But it’s flawed.
You see advertising is not a matter of monkeying around with a mouse. And not everyone can do it – however competent their vision, no matter how skilled in Photoshop.

In reality, advertising shares more with selling than with art.

And just like any sales rep, it should be forced to justify itself – in terms of market awareness, leads and revenue.

Unlike your regular sales reps however, who may talk only to one customer at a time, advertising can speak to thousands – through your website, advertising, direct marketing and PR.

Ineffective advertising can cost your business big – resulting in missed opportunities and, worse, creating a negative brand image for your company.

Is this really a chance you can afford to take – now of all times?

From the ever-useful “Clients from Hell” website

The best way to avoid a lot of complaints that come with freelancing is to screen clients. However, not every client from hell has a pair of horns sticking out of their forehead. Here are some signs that you may be making a deal with the devil:

Ambiguous expectations: A client is employing you because they lack the skillset or resources to complete a project themselves. However, the client should have a clear idea of what they’re after. Failing that, they should be eager to help you help them figure it out. Clients who fail this test have project scopes balloon overnight, or they react with anger and confusion when their idea of what they wanted doesn’t match the freelancer’s blind attempts to give it to them.

Unappreciative: A client’s expectations may not be explicitly tied to the project itself; they may expect behaviour, time, or discounts for no other reason other than they think they deserve it. Unfortunately, giving these clients what they want only reinforces their belief that the freelancer lives to work for them. The best way to avoid these clients is for freelancers to be upfront about how they work and how they expect the client to work. The client’s reaction to this news will tell the freelancer a lot.

Disrespectful: Disrespect is tied to the client not seeing a freelancer as an equal. The best relationships are based around working with a client, not for them. Clients that fail to pay on time, refuse to communicate, or blow off appointments and/or suggestions without justification are clients who lack a professional respect vital for a good working relationship.

Devaluing hard work: Nobody is thrilled to spend money if they don’t have to, but if a client devalues your work and efforts in an attempt to lower their bottom line, it’s a point of concern. The freelancer-client relationship should be a mutually beneficial one. Clients should feel they are getting a value out of their freelancers, and freelancers should feel valued by their clients. Things like a paid deposit and a contract should make both the freelancer and the client feel safer; the pair have entered a bond that explicitly states expectations and responsibilities.

Here are some additional tips to avoid a client from hell before you sell them your soul:

1. Research the client and their past projects

2. Discuss all aspects of a project before committing to it

3. Be honest and clear; expect the same treatment

4. After a few correspondences, evaluate the client’s communication skills; are they telling you everything, and are they concise about it? Do they respect work hours and reasonable turnaround time? Are they addressing your questions and concerns?

5. Trust your gut and don’t enter into a relationship that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Did you know…..


The words “cybernetic” and “governor” come from the same word. That puts Arnold Schwarzenegger in a whole new light, doesn’t it? Cybernetic, while popularly known in the context of biotechnology, is to do with the science of regulatory systems. This can mean the way computer programs control robotics, or how social groups are arranged into hierarchies. The word “cybernetics” comes straight from the Greek word “kubernetes”, in English. The Greek “K” (kappa) is generally turned into a “C” in English, and the Greek “U” (upsilon) becomes a “Y” in English (cyclops is a perfect example). In Greek, a kubernetes was the pilot of a ship, the person who controlled how the ship moved.

The Greeks were better sailors than the Romans, so it did not take long for the Romans to use Greek terminology on Roman ships. The Romans, however, favoured the “G” sound over the “K” sound, and “kubernetes” became gubernator. From there, the word started to mean “the guy in charge.” Centuries passed, and the Latin-speaking Franks, who lived in one particular region of Gaul, imposed their pronunciation of Latin on the region, which they now called “France” or “land of the Franks.” Just as the Romans preferred the “G” sound to the “K,” the French preferred the “V” sound to “B”, in this particular word, giving us “governor.” The French “governor” passed into English after the Norman invasion.

True Wife Confessions….

Do you ever enjoy the problem pages in magazines? Well, here’s a whole website devoted to people confessing & letting off steam anonymously. The language and subject matter is a bit, err “ripe”, so only check it out if you’re prepared….

If you’re bored whilst enjoying a cup of coffee, have a giggle at some of the content – click here

Meetings? No thanks!

Friends, colleagues and longstanding clients will be aware of my views on meetings: be they for briefings, negotiations, training or any other purpose, they should be limited to two hours. Max.

If, that is, they’re really necessary at all.

My reasoning: if an issue can’t be resolved in two hours, it won’t be resolved in ten. Consequently, I’ve spent the last two weeks days in a procession of… two hour meetings. That’s all well and good – for anyone who has a posse of support staff to ‘look after the store’ in their absence. I, alas, do not.

Thus I was delighted today to find validation in a most unlikely quarter. Not through the musings of a business mentor or time management coach; but in a Sunday Times column written by no less a luminary than Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, wherein he observed

“All [meetings] – with no exceptions – are a complete and utter waste of everyone’s time. Show me someone who goes to a lot of meetings and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t have a proper job.

“All the great inventions and great leadership choices come from the mind of one egomaniac who then gets the job done. Everything after the initial idea is formulated can be achieved by email.

“Meetings are where good ideas get watered down and bad ideas are forced along because no one ever has the courage to stand up and say: What the bloody hell are we doing here?’”


Of course, you may disagree – in which case, please ‘schedule some face time’ to discuss the matter.

With someone else.