Verbability

I was involved in a short but interesting discussion today about whether the word ‘blog’ was a good word blog related activities. I argued that its chief virtue was that it could easily by made into verbs and adverbs such as blogging, blogged and blogable.

This lead to another thought: was ‘Google’ so successful in becoming known because it had the same verbability [yes, I know verb doesn’t really have verbability]? That is, ‘Google’ is not only a noun (for the search engine) but a verb both present (googling), past (googled) and future tense (to google). Notice that this is a feature that Look Smart, Microsoft Search, Yahoo and Britannica do not have. I have never known anyone to yahoo themselves!

In economics, one reason Freakonomics has taken off is that it is now an adjective. Amongst my colleagues we talk often of ‘freakonomicsy’ ideas to describe ideas that Steve Levitt might pursue.

As a final example, consider Tivo. That product is both a noun (for the machine) and a verb (for what the machine does or has done). That is, it is common to have ‘tivoed’ a program.

The message here is that when choosing a name consider verbability. Of course, with Nintendo’s new ‘Wii’ console, say whatever you want about that name, it may just have what it takes (depending upon what you are doing of course).

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