post-verbing: hammocking

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sat Aug 24 18:38:20 UTC 2013

On Sat, Aug 24, 2013 at 12:58 PM, Victor Steinbok  wrote:
> Either the -ing suffix has become formative directly from nouns or there
> is some intermediate verbing stage involved:
> > TRMSer Anthony Terrell was down in Boone, North Carolina, to shoot the
> > video for the segment about the closing of the on-campus polling
> > location at Appalachian State University and also brought back a bit
> > of campus cultural insight:
> >> At Appalachian State University, the sight of students in trees
> >> sitting in hammocks was very common. The students call it
> >> "hammocking" and they keep the fabric sling tied to their backpacks
> >> for use in between classes and to relax at the end of the day. It's
> >> something I wish I thought of when I was in college. Brilliant!

Creating "-ing" forms directly from nouns isn't terribly new -- see
OED's entry for the suffix:

1c. The notion of simple action passes insensibly into that of a
process, practice, habit, or art, which may or may not be regarded as
in actual exercise; e.g. ‘reading and writing are now common
acquirements’; so drawing, engraving, fencing, smoking, swimming.
Words of this kind are also formed directly from ns. which are the
names of things used, or persons engaged, in the action: such are
ballooning, blackberrying, canalling, chambering, cocking
(cock-fighting), fowling, gardening, hopping (hop-picking), hurting
(gathering hurts), nooning, nutting, sniping, buccaneering, costering,
soldiering, and the like.

But certainly the advent of photo fads, such as "planking," "owling,"
"horsemaning," "Tebowing," "Eastwooding," and various other memes
discussed here in the past, has encouraged such formations. In most
such cases, if a verb form arises (e.g. "to Tebow") it's really only a
post-hoc back-formation from the "-ing" form.


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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