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Time magazine (September 30) carries the article titled “Christie to Watch Football” followed by the lead copy: “Garden Stater in no rush to decide, will mull while gridironing this weekend. AP finally weighs in: Christie "reconsidering" his decision not to run. ”

From the headline, it is easily to understood that ‘gridironing’ refers to watching football game. But as I checked both of Cambridge Dictionary and Merriam-Webster Dictionary and others on line, there was no mention of ‘gridiron’ as a verb.

Merriam Webster defines ‘gridiron’ as the noun meaning;

  1. a gated iron utensil for broiling flesh and fish over coals.

  2. An openwork frame on which vessels are placed for examination, cleaning, and repairs.

  3. A football field.

Cambridge Dictionary defines it simply;

noun. a field painted with lines for American football.

I know people use nouns as verbs very often today. Even we Japanese say ‘I baseballed yesterday.’ ‘Let’s movie today,’ ‘I forgot to breakfast this morning,' by omitting do, take, play to shorten the sentence. But is it right to use ‘gridiron’ in the verb or gerund form which no dictionary (as far as I checked) provides as used in the Time article? Can we substitute most nouns (not saying every noun) for verb / gerund, like 'I'm philosophying today,''The doctor coughed while surgerying.'?

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The noun gridiron is used to refer to the sport itself, as well as the field. –  Jeanne Pindar Oct 2 '11 at 0:05

5 Answers 5

The use of "gridironing" in this context probably has more to do with editorial policies unique to Time magazine. Most publications have in-house standards about what kind of colloquialisms are acceptable. But, since the article in question is a blog post, it's probably not subject to the kind of editorial oversight that articles in the print version of Time would be, and it's more likely to be informal, even teasing.

I wouldn't go so far as to say one can make any noun into a gerund to suit one's fancy. Let's take your examples:

"I'm philosophying today."

would, in informal English, probably be something more like

"I'm philosophizing today."

This is a bit of a peculiar colloquialism itself.

As a native speaker, I can't imagine hearing your second example

"The doctor coughed while surgerying."

as anything other than

"The doctor coughed while performing surgery."

Because you're referring to a case of idiomatic speech (in one of its most informal fora, blogging), I wouldn't draw any conclusions about grammaticality from the blog post, and I would use nouns-made-into-gerunds sparingly.

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The Oxford English Dictionary records ‘gridiron’ as being first used as a verb in 1832, not in the sense of watching football, but as ‘to mark with parallel lines or a pattern suggesting the form of a gridiron’. In New Zealand, ‘gridironing’ is used as a noun with an extremely limited sense in land purchase.

You can do whatever you like with language. What matters is whether or not it performs the function that the speaker or writer intends. In most cases, that will entail getting meaning across, but also doing so in a way that engages the sympathy of the listener or reader. I wouldn’t have understood the sentence you quote, but I’m not American, and I’m not interested in football. If, however, the readers of the sports columns in ‘Time’ understand the sentence and are not entirely antagonized by it, then it has presumably done what the writer had in mind.

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I think the easy answer is no, at least not if you don't want to risk using odd constructions and raising some eyebrows.

You cannot substitute "most nouns" for a verb or a gerund and end up with a standard English construction.

That said, it does happen, and with some frequency, particularly with the preponderance of casual usage on the internet.

If your concern is whether or not something sounds "native", I'd say just keep your ears/eyes open and see which nouns are being used in this fashion. If your concern is whether or not someone will understand you, I'd say from your questions that your English is good enough that you'll always be able to express yourself sufficiently.

(Side-note: This practice often occurs with proper nouns, when the name of the brand or product comes to define the action. Ex: Do you want to Skype this weekend?)

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It depends on the audience. I doubt most British English speakers will understand gridiron, and even fewer gridironing.

If your audience is American football fans, they are more likely to understand, but my first (incorrect) guess would have been it means to play American football.

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The idea that the subject would be "gridironing a weekend" is strange; in my opinion "gridironing" would need an object. But I've never heard it as a verb before.

I had no idea that it actually meant the subject was WATCHING football. I assumed they were participating in it in some way.

I wouldn't generally use it as a verb because it's so obscure, but it could be totally acceptable with people who knew about football.

All of this with the note that pretty much any verb can be turned into a noun these days. Just for a little varietizing.

My answer to your question would be "No. it's not a common usage, and should come with context."

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