a noun, actually

Between tutorials the other day, I passed a noticeboard to which was affixed the following provocative slogan:

Church is a verb.

What are you doing with it?

Provocative, of course, as if you needed me to point it out, because ‘church’ is a noun.

Don’t you just shudder to think how many linguists must have passed that poster and vowed never to darken the door of said institution again? Outreach based on dodgy theology is, like, so passe. Now we have outreach based on trendy but utterly ignorant faux linguistic analyses.

Do your mind a favour and visit the Language Log. Geoff Pullum has some very choice things to say about this very problem. It’s about as coherent as saying “church is an atom!” “Church is a chromosome!” “Church is a sine wave!” “What are you doing with it, mmm?”

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5 thoughts on “a noun, actually

  1. Even if it was a verb, the slogan would still make no sense. You don’t doanything with verbs except… use them, decline them, inflect them, predicate them, and so forth.

    The what are you doing with it? in fact necessitates that it is a noun. or at least that the antecedent of the pronoun ‘it’ is a noun.
    Try to stick a real verb in and see what happens:

    Copulate is a verb
    What are you doing with it?

    still makes no sense.

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  2. There is a definition for a verb ‘church’ in the OED:

    To bring, take, or conduct to church, in order to receive its rites or ministrations. Commonly in the passive, the person concerned being said to be churched

    Assuming the point of the advert was to say that going to church is an exciting activity which you can proactively undertake, (a) it isn’t being used in the sense of the OED definition, (b) the whole “passive” thing would presumably be massively unappealing to people who don’t really get language analysis, and (c) as Jaŋari says, it still wouldn’t make sense :D

    Or try it this way:
    I church
    thou churchest you church
    he/she/it churches
    we church
    you church
    they church

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