I’m fascinated by words and phrases whose form is the opposite of their meaning. Sort of like an oxymoron, but on a meta-level.

One example that comes to mind is “to noun” — a term that describes the process of turning a verb into a noun. For example, an archeological dig, a witch hunt, a clam bake, are all examples of a verb being repurposed to serve as a noun.

They have all been nouned. Yet “to noun” is itself an example of a noun that has been repurposed to serve as a verb — exactly the opposite of nouning (I guess you could say it has been verbed).

What should we call these examples of the form of a word or phrase suggesting the opposite of its meaning, such as “breviloquent”, or “eschew obfuscation”?

I’m open to suggestions.

2 thoughts on “Nouning”

  1. Not that I have an answer (or a suggestion), but along a somewhat but not at all parallel direction, tonight while I was making dinner I wondered out loud “how did ‘hardly’ happen”? How did the adverbial form of “hard” come to mean “scarce” or “barely” rather than a description of firm density?

    I will be watching this thread with bated breath.

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