A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beth Underwood: About pet peeves, at top of my list is nouns that become verbs; please don’t ‘gift’ me

We all have pet peeves, don’t we? Whether it’s disdain for a trendy phrase like cra-cra or someone driving 20 in a 55, there are certain things in life that grate on our last nerves — those things that go through us like nails on a chalkboard, causing us to wonder if our ears will bleed out from the noise. For me, one such pet peeve is nouns that become verbs.

Take the word gift, for example. For years and years, that four-letter word minded its own business, not bothering anyone or anything. It did what nouns do best. It named persons, places, or in our case, things. And it was happy about it.

It appeared in sentences such as, “Thank you for the nice gift” and “No gifts necessary.” We were all clear that gift was a noun, and we respected it for knowing its place in the world.

At some point, though, things started going horribly awry. It’s hard to say how or when it happened, but one day, without warning, gift-the-noun became gift-the-verb.

Maybe it started with the whole recycled gift trend. You know, the one where you take something that someone gave (er, gifted) you, and instead of being a gracious receiver, you gave (gifted) the gift to someone else, all the while under the pretense that you planned it that way all along.

Two things: First, such recycling is a huge no-no in the world of Southern etiquette. It’s simply not done. And second, I feel like we can already see the overarching problem with gift-the-verb.

Anyway, as gift-the-verb took on a demon-possessed life of its own, advertisers and trend-followers alike fell in lockstep with new gift-the-verb nonsense, like sheep being led to a slaughter. As far as the masses were concerned, the decision was final: gift-the-noun had become gift-the-verb. But you and I both know what they say about the masses, don’t we?

In case you aren’t already convinced, let’s look at a couple more examples of gift-the-verb in real life scenarios, shall we?

“I’ll be gifting gift cards to all my nephews and nieces.”

“She gifted me a fuzzy blanket.”

Now substitute giving and gave respectively. See how much better that sounds?

I know what you may be thinking: Look, Beth. I couldn’t agree with you more! But won’t I look silly if everyone else is using gift-the-verb except me? Won’t others think me to be an old fogey or unhip?

To which I must say this: just because everyone else is jumping off the bridge, it doesn’t mean you and I have to jump, too.


What it does mean is this. It’s high time that gift-the-verb return to its rightful place as gift-the-noun. That it reclaim its crown as the namer of persons, places, and things, while we retire gift-the-verb to the dustbin of history. Indeed, that would be a gift worth giving.

Beth Underwood is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. She shares stories of everyday life that entertain, inspire, and encourage others. Her books include Gravity, a narrative nonfiction account of a small group of Tennessee National Guardsmen, and Talk Bourbon to Me, a lighthearted look at Kentucky’s native spirit. Drop her a line at beth@bethwrightunderwood.com, or visit her website at bethwrightunderwood.com.

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