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I was taught in school many years ago (in the 1960s) that there is no such thing as a proper verb. Example: I used the Xerox machine and xeroxed the document. Or: I will use my bottle of Windex to windex the mirror.

Is this corrector not?

  • I guess your examples are just standard ways to change nouns into verbs – Stefan Mar 31 '19 at 15:01
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    Well, there's certainly such a thing as an improper verb. – Hot Licks Apr 1 '19 at 0:23
  • Would perhaps 'Christianise' would serve as another helpful example, since it seems more inclined to retain proper noun style capitalisation? – vicky_molokh Apr 1 '19 at 7:55
  • "All sensible and viable solutions have been pre-empted. The project has been completely Microsofted." – B. Goddard Apr 1 '19 at 13:42
  • Regardless of "proper" or not, you should never capitalize a verb. Beyond that, does it really matter? – user91988 Apr 1 '19 at 15:05
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The word "xeroxed" is an example of conversion. Conversion means the change of a word class without a change in form. It is very productive in English. For example, I can use the noun bottle and turn it into a verb he bottled the milk, or the adjective green and turn it into a noun we went out into the green, an ungradable adjective like English and turn it into a gradable adjective, he is very English, etc. In your case, you took a proper noun, Xerox, and turned it into a verb, to xerox. That does not make the resulting word a "proper verb", which is not even a recognized category in linguistics. It makes it a verb converted from a proper noun.

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    being a Brit my first example was "he bottled they guy stood beside him" – WendyG Apr 1 '19 at 14:52
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    @WendyG my even more British reaction to that is “...or at least, he was going to, but then he bottled it” – jez Apr 1 '19 at 17:04
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No, there are not "proper verbs." There are verbs, which communicate an action, and then there's everything else.

Your example is not an instance of metonymy, as @user307254 suggested. Metonymy is a method of figuratively conflating one object or concept with the name of another, with which it is associated, for the purpose of metaphoric expression. To wit: saying "lay off the bottle" to mean "quit drinking" is metonymy.

What you have described is a phenomenon referred to as "anthimeria" by etymologists. It is sometimes colloquially termed "verbification," and it is a perfectly normal (and acceptable) aspect involved in the evolution of language. The process is not so much a problem of linguistics as it is a legal concern, resulting in so-called "genericide;" it primarily relates to intellectual property as it can result in the loss of trademark (Bayer lost its claim to the word Aspirin in 1921 due to generalized use of the word).

As a rule, the trademark will be capitalized, since it is a proper noun, whereas the verbal form with be lower case. You may have an account with Google, but you could just as easily use another search engine to google your query.

If it's listed in the dictionary as a verb, rather than slang, then it is as "proper" as any other. According to the three dictionaries I referenced (Merriam-Webster, Dictionary.com, and The Cambridge Dictionary of English), xerox is recognized as a verb, while Windex is not. An entry for windex was only included in the Urban Dictionary, suggesting that it is merely slang.

Thus to xerox is "proper," yet to windex is not.


Addendum

Since this answer appears to be mildly ambiguous, I will attempt to provide a laconic conclusion: no, there is not a verbal analogue to proper nouns.

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  • What’s the definition of “anthimeria”? Is that really a term in English linguistics? Or is it not rather used in rhetorics and literary studies? – Richard Z Apr 1 '19 at 5:33
  • rhetoric (rĕtˈər-ĭk) n. The art or study of using language effectively and persuasively. n. A treatise or book discussing this art. n. Skill in using language effectively and persuasively. – Jon.D. Apr 1 '19 at 6:10
  • Anthimeria is also a literary device. But yes, it is the word for verbification. – Jon.D. Apr 1 '19 at 6:12
  • From literarydevices.net: ># Types of Anthimeria >Depending upon its usage, anthimeria has two types: >> Temporary Anthimeria This type may be trendy or popular; however, it does not make its appearance permanent in language. For instance, these days a temporary anthimeria is “hashtagging;” since it has emerged recently, but it may not last long. >> Permanent Anthimeria This type has become a permanent part of language after its emergence. For instance, “texting” has become a permanent part of language. Another one is “typing.” – Jon.D. Apr 1 '19 at 6:17
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    Well, I learned something. But I can tell you that in linguistic circles, the term is extremely uncommon. I guess it's mainly used as a literary or rhetorical device. Linguists prefer the term "conversion" for this concept instead. – Richard Z Apr 1 '19 at 6:22
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The Cambridge Dictionary gives the capitalised verb:

Google

On the basis that dictionaries are authorities on whether a word is a word or not—at least for pedants—English does indeed appear to have proper verbs, so to speak.

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    There appears to be some confusion about what proper nouns actually are here. It's all about grammar not spelling. Notice how resistant named entities such as England, London, Oxford, Elizabeth, and Araucaria are to articles in particular but also determiners in general. Unlike common nouns, proper names are already definite. Yes, today's Hyde Park may be different from yesterday's, but such applications have special meaning. Common and proper nouns differ grammatically. Spelling is immaterial. . – tchrist Apr 1 '19 at 6:09
  • @tchrist is correct. – Jon.D. Apr 1 '19 at 14:38
  • @tchrist I couldn't agree with you more. I interpreted the question along the lines of 'I was told not to use verbs derived from proper nouns, because they weren't real words (which rule really meant "Don't use brand names as verbs"). Is this true?' Guessing this was what the OP was aiming at, that´s the question I answered, purely out of pragmatism. I wouldn't have answered at all, but there were no answers addressing the issue at that point. I only changed the title because the Q had only had about 22 views in ten hours or something. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Apr 1 '19 at 16:50
  • @tchrist As you can see this isn´t a question that I had time to put my heart and soul into. A full and proper answer, addressing the actual question as posed would be a useful addition, I was certainly hoping that the OP would get a better answer than my lacklustre placeholder. You gonna write one? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Apr 1 '19 at 16:51
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Your examples illustrate metonymy

: a figure of speech consisting of the use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attribute or with which it is associated. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/metonymy)

Another example of the metonymy is boycott.

According to Etymologyonline: 1880, noun and verb, "to combine in refusing to have dealings with, and preventing or discouraging others from doing so, as punishment for political or other differences."

From Irish Land League ostracism of Capt. Charles C. Boycott (1832-1897).

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    That’s not metonymy. The definition you give is correct but it doesn’t apply to the example at all?! – Richard Z Mar 31 '19 at 15:33
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    What Richard Z said. Boycott is a good example of eponymy, not metonymy. – Quuxplusone Apr 1 '19 at 13:52
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While being a life long user of the English Language. Having written many presentations for public consumption. Also the editor (especially tense) for NIH grants, and various other IT and Academic technical publications.

I do not recall the term, in English proper verb. There are adverbs to install additional fortitude to a verb. Not a proper verb. Some Germanic languages do use a variety of verb types, German, Dutch, Flemish, Danish, languages for an example.

The conjugation of verbs is a "whole other country" that have been removed in US English. I can not speak to the other English Flavors, GB, CA, CA-NF, CA-BC, NZ, AU, SA, ... idk how many there are?

Verbs in Deutsch are quite complex and multi-leveled. In German class, verb conjugation is/was called "diktat". You may see a pattern. It was about as difficult as memorizing the Periodic Table.

Present - singular & plural Compount Past - singular & plural Past Perfect- "" "" Future Tense - "" "" Furture Perfect - "" ""

There are three command (imperative) forms. The subjunctive is a mood, not a tense. also Singular & Plural.

The Subjunctive II is based on the simple past tense (Imperfekt). Singular & Plural.

I got this from my German 2 textbook "Spreken und Lesen" Speaking & Reading.

I hope I didn't go too far, but there are "Parts" of the German language being sloshed into common English. Uber, Verboten, are a few examples. Super - Higher & Forbidden.

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  • Have you considered addressing "proper verbs" in your answer? You should, seeing as that's what this question is about... – AndyT Apr 1 '19 at 11:04

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