In The Martian movie, Matt Damon (Watney), when left stranded on Mars with very limited resources to survive, says:

Mark Watney: In the face of overwhelming odds, I'm left with only one option, I'm gonna have to science the shit out of this.


  1. Celebrity scientist, Neil Degrasse Tyson loved this quote. And so did I.

  2. A Quora post says

    Watney's a scientist. He's going to use scientific method to solve his problems. It's more obvious in the book - he does a lot of calculations. eg. He drives the rover around in circles logging how much energy it uses to test his hypothesis for carrying hab solar panels on a trailer, keeping within walking distance of the hab. He doesn't just do something and hope it works first time, like MacGyver ('80s TV show).

So you probably get the idea what it means to science the shit out of something.

That is, to practically experiment a lot (and a lot more), in this case, for survival; instead of simply hoping to survive by sheer luck.

1. What would be a better way to convey the same meaning? (too broad)

  1. Is there a better word to use as a verb here?

  2. Is it okay to use certain nouns (like science) in place of verbs? If so, what's the technique called?

  • 51
    Verbification of nouns is currently then fad on the Internet: I can't brain today, I forgot how to dog, etc. It's intentionally precious. But it's quite common outside that trend, and has been going on forever.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 13:37
  • 7
    Well-researched question +1). Probably you will get an answer that says "almost all the English nouns could work as verbs". One question per post seems to be the policy and I think Question 1 and 2 could be merged into one.
    – user140086
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 13:40
  • 9
    @DanBron Since it's ok to verb any noun, "verbify" is rejected as being extraletterific. :-) Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 16:51
  • 15
    heck, relevant Calvin and Hobbes (from 1993)!
    – fluffy
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 19:33
  • 6
    I'm not sure there is a "better" way to express that. It's succinct and gets the point across quite well.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 19:58

8 Answers 8


The rhetorical term for the phenomenon you describe is catachresis.

Catachresis has been defined by Robert A. Harris as "an extravagant, implied metaphor using words in an alien or unusual way." A noun, for example, could be used as a verb, as in the case of "I'm gonna have to science . . .." Harris gives an example which is similar to Matt Damon's sentence:

The little old lady turtled along at ten miles per hour.

A good catachresis creates a word picture. The sentence which contained the word turtled as a verb may solidify, so to speak, the writer's or speaker's idea in the mind of the reader or listener.

The image of an old lady turtling along cements itself in someone's mind more readily than a mere verbal description such as, "The old lady plodded along slowly" (although the word plodded is better than an average word, such as walked).

In conclusion, while the expression "to science something" may not serve to create a word picture, that one word may get a listener to think of the elements of the scientific method (e.g., the control of variables, careful measurements, and hypothesis-making and hypothesis-testing). Now that's an efficient use of words!

  • 1
    I like this, but it doesn't tackle the second half of the sentence, where tacking "the shit out of this" as opposed to this implies a task of greater magnitude, intensity, or risk.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 21:06
  • @corsiKa: Good point! Robert Harris's example could be expanded for added magnitude and intensity by inserting the word "defiantly" after "turtled." So you have, "The little old lady turtled along defiantly at ten miles per hour." That provides a funny picture, at least in my mind, of an old lady who doesn't give a s_ _ t if she's frustrating the heck out of the people behind her! Don Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 22:20
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    -1 Sorry, but that's just not it. "I will speak daggers to her." has no verbing. Furthermore, catachresis is far more inclusive, very broad. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catachresis oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/catachresis
    – Kris
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 8:59
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    "turtled" is also a pun on "hurtled" which would be the word you'd expect to see in such a phrase.
    – Separatrix
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 13:45
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    A pedantic remark about the turtling: she's fairly clearly driving rather than walking, so both "plodded" and "walked" would be unsatisfactory for reasons of correctness rather than vividity. (Walking at 10mph would be really fast.) Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 14:02

This question can be approached as one of register.

First, there's an expletive used as an intensifier:

beat the crap out of...knock the hell out of...kick the shit out of...punch the bejeezus out of... etc

He knocked the hell out of Joe Schmoe in the heavyweight bout last year.

Second, there's the use of the noun science as a verb, occupying a particular position in a common intensifier pattern, and thereby associating doing scientific stuff with punching, beating, kicking, knocking, etc. Using the noun as a verb is like using a wrench as a hammer. These two things, noun as (crude) verb, and noun-verb occupying the position of kick, beat, punch in the intensifier pattern, turn his scientific activity into a macho or survivalist enterprise. He is momentarily feigning the register of the macho survivalist.

There's self-deprecating humor (lab geeks laughing at themselves) but also a real swaggering pride taken in his possessing the knowledge that may save his life, the kind of knowledge that could save his home planet's life some day.

So, when the OP asks for a "better" way to say this, the question arises, what does "better" mean? A more polite, or a less swaggering way? That wouldn't be better from the point of view of the story and character. A neutral way would be to say that he intends to use every scientific method at his disposal.


Using a noun as a verb is called "verbing" which, appropriately enough, is itself an example of the phenomenon it describes. It's often looked down on as slangy and inelegant, but many common verbs actually started as nouns.

In a single work day, we might head a task force, eye an opportunity, nose around for good ideas, mouth a greeting, elbow an opponent, strong-arm a colleague, shoulder the blame, stomach a loss, and finally, perhaps, hand in our resignation.


Psychologist Steven Pinker estimates that up to a fifth of English verbs are derived from nouns--including such ancient verbs as rain, snow, and thunder along with more recent converts like oil, pressure, referee, bottle, debut, audition, highlight, diagnose, critique, email, and mastermind.



Is it okay to use certain nouns (like science) in place of verbs? If so, what's the technique called?

I notice that no one has given the classical answer to your second question there. The technique is traditionally called "anthimeria" or "antimeria", meaning "against the part". That is, using one part of speech in a manner contrary to its usual function in a sentence. See Wikipedia for numerous examples. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthimeria


As others have mentioned, this is colloquially known as "verbing" a noun. The formal term for this in linguistics is conversion, or zero-derivation:

In linguistics, conversion, also called zero derivation, is a kind of word formation; specifically, it is the creation of a word (of a new word class) from an existing word (of a different word class) without any change in form.


Answering question 1) and 2) only.

Some obvious more proper ways to say it would be to use "scientific method" or a variation of it somewhere in the sentence. It's the most common term.

I'm going to solve this problem using science

I'm going to scientifically solve this problem

I'm going to use the scientific method to solve this problem

I'm going to use the scientific method of problem solving

Oh , and if you really , really want to use a verb:

I'm going to scientize this problem

"to treat scientifically, to apply science to something" (Collins)

I find it awkward, but it's a verb apparently in use since the 1800's.

  • 2
    Judging from the remarks in the question, "research" or "experiment" was meant.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 7:02

This is called verbing; see extended description at the link or in other answers.
Here's the obligatory/famous Calvin & Hobbes on the subject:


Try macgyver. It means to make, assemble or repair something by ingenious and inventive improvisation. In other simple terms it means to use ingenuity to fix or remedy a problem using only the tools available at hand.

Mark watney macgyvered a makeshift roof to make room for his equipment ans supplies.

  • 1
    In your question itself, this word is mentioned, @NVZ didn't you see?
    – arrivalin
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 16:19
  • @arrivalin good one. And I only read the questions. What are the odds.
    – vickyace
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 16:21

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