Multiple times I saw that "to go" is used with strange things, especially in memes:

But I don't see such scheme to be listed in a dictionary as phrasal verbs or idiomatic phrases.

How this thing is called? Is it still a sort of phrasal verb? Is a sort of verbing, applied to onomatopoeia? Is this usage of "go" even described somewhere? Can other words instead of "go" serve this function?

  • I asked him if he was cold. He went "Brrrr". Oct 22, 2020 at 18:49
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    Basic research. 'go: to produce a noise: I think I heard the doorbell go (= ring) just now. / I wish my computer would stop going "beep" whenever I do something wrong.' [CED] Oct 22, 2020 at 19:00
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    @EdwinAshworth But isn't there a more general use in this (let me call it 'stretched' use of 'go'? Things or people can 'go crazy' or 'bananas' (you can 'send' them crazy - and 'turn' crazy' too). The best way I can describe such verbs are that they are being used as 'wild cards. And there are wild card nouns as well as verbs. 'thing' springs to mind: "He has a thing about violets".
    – Tuffy
    Oct 22, 2020 at 20:18
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    This is the Path metaphor theme. You follow the Path and "go" to various metaphoric "places", like crazy. Making noises is a different sense, of ordinary behavior: the bee goes 'buzz', the computer goes 'hmmm', ... Oct 22, 2020 at 20:30
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    @Tuffy When verbs are 'totally bleached of meaning' ('semantic bleaching'), becoming merely functional, they're known as 'delexical verbs'. Take a hike. Have a bath. Make a speech. Give a cry of relief. Do your hair. Hang a right. John's pointing out the metaphor theme makes things less clear-cut; obviously the usages came from somewhere, and obviously someone is considerate of where they came from. Oct 23, 2020 at 11:33

1 Answer 1


One of the definitions given by Oxford Dictionaries is 'make a sound of a specified kind'. This is a common usage in informal speech and when teaching animal noises to children:

The cow goes moo.

The balloon went bang.

  • I seem to remember some kind of primitive electronic toy I got for my daughter in the early 80s that did that. Oct 22, 2020 at 18:59
  • As kids, if we drank a lot of fizzy lemonade, aunties used to say 'you'll go off pop!" Oct 22, 2020 at 19:10
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    @MichaelHarvey nice ambiguity. Oct 22, 2020 at 19:24

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