The scourge of Verbing

It was a seemingly innocuous tweet by my friend (and journalist, I might add!) Frances Cook which reminded me of what, in my opinion, is one of the world’s great unchecked grammar crimes:


Did you spot it?

No, it wasn’t synchronised swimming – although I consider that to be one of the world’s great unchecked sporting crimes.

It was the word medaled.

Medaled is an example of verbing, or verbification. Or as I prefer to call it, making a mess of the English language.

It is the conversion of a noun into a verb, and I have to admit in some cases is perfectly acceptable.  For example you may start with the word mail – as in a letter or a package – and extend that to I’m mailing it to you this afternoon.  Or mail’s more modern cousin email – an electronic message – is naturally changed to he emailed it to the whole group last week.

So far, so good.

But medaled?  This is to say that he or she won a medal.  He only came fourth in the 100m final, but medaled in the 200m.  The United States medaled in seven events on Day 5 of the Olympic Games.  She’s hoping to medal in at least two of the three competitions.

And that’s one of the less offensive examples.  Whilst working at Channel Seven in Australia, I would hear about the football player who goaled in a match.  I recently read about American skier Lindsay Vonn becoming the winningest U.S. athlete in World Cups.

I’m sorry.  It just isn’t right.  I know it’s becoming acceptable to use such words, but when they creep into journalism I have a real issue with it.  Medaled is a particularly contentious one because it of course sounds like meddled.  If someone meddled in an event in the Olympic Games, that would be reason for concern rather than celebration.

But then perhaps I’m over-reacting.  After all, how many times a day do I and countless other people say things like this?


I’d be interested in your thoughts on this one.  Perhaps I’m just being too pedantic!

The scourge of Verbing

2 thoughts on “The scourge of Verbing

  1. Well, according to a blog at Oxford dictionary ( the earliest source for using medal as a verb dates from 1822 in a broader manner, “to decorate or honour someone with a medal”. Specific usage in sporting events dates from 1966. I don’t see an issue with using medal as a verb for events such as the Olympics — the awards are medals, so someone winning one would meet the 19th-century definition. Medal as a verb is not a recent thing.


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