Verbs can also be made from adjectives: to pale, to yellow, to cool, to grey, to rough (e. g. We decided to rough it in the tents as the weather was warm), etc.
Other parts of speech are not entirely unsusceptible to conversion as the following examples show: to down, to out (as in a newspaper heading Diplomatist Outed from Budapest), the ups and downs, the ins and outs, like, n, (as in the like of me and the like of you).
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It was mentioned at the beginning of this section that a word made by conversion has a different meaning from that of the word from which it was made though the two meanings can be associated. There are certain regularities in these associations which can be roughly classified. For instance, in the group of verbs
made from nouns some of the regular semantic associations are as indicated in the following list:
I. The noun is the name of a tool or implement, the verb denotes an action performed by the tool: to hammer, to nail, to pin, to brush, to comb, to pencil.
II. The noun is the name of an animal, the verb denotes an action or aspect of behaviour considered typical of this animal: to dog, to wolf, to monkey, to ape, to fox, to rat. Yet, to fish does not mean "to behave like a fish" but "to try to catch fish". The same meaning of hunting activities is conveyed by the verb to whale and one of the meanings of to rat; the other is "to turn in former, squeal" (sl.).
III. The name of a part of the human body — an ac tion performed by it: to hand, to leg (sl.), to eye, to elbow, to shoulder, to nose, to mouth. However, to face does not imply doing something by or even with one's face but turning it in a certain direction. To back means either "to move backwards" or, in the figurative sense, "to support somebody or something".
IV. The name of a profession or occupation — an activity typical of it: to nurse, to cook, to maid, to groom.
V. The name of a place — the process of occupying
VI. The name of a container — the act of putting smth. within the container (to can, to bottle, to pocket).
VII. The name of a meal — the process of taking it (to lunch, to supper).
The suggested groups do not include all the great variety of verbs made from nouns by conversion. They just represent the most obvious cases and illustrate, convincingly enough, the great variety of semantic interrelations within so-called converted pairs and the
complex nature of the logical associations which specify them.
In actual fact, these associations are not only complex but sometimes perplexing. It would seem that if you know that the verb formed from the name of an animal denotes behaviour typical of the animal, it would be easy for you to guess the meaning of such a verb provided that you know the meaning of the noun. Yet, it is not always easy. Of course, the meaning of to fox is rather obvious being derived from the associated reputation of that animal for cunning: to fox means "to act cunningly or craftily". But what about to wolf? How is one to know which of the characteristics of the animal was picked by the speaker's subconscious when this verb was produced? Ferocity? Loud and unpleasant howling? The inclination to live in packs? Yet, as the following example shows, to wolf means "to eat greedily, voraciously": Charlie went on wolfing the chocolate. (R. Dahl)
In the same way, from numerous characteristics of the dog, only one was chosen for the verb to dog which is well illustrated by the following example:
And what of Charles? I pity any detective who would have to dog him through those twenty months.
(From The French Lieutenant's Woman by J. Fowles)
(To dog — to follow or track like a dog, especially with hostile intent.)
The two verbs to ape and to monkey, which might be expected to mean more or less the same, have shared between themselves certain typical features of the same animal:
to ape — to imitate, mimic (e. g. He had always aped the gentleman in his clothes and manners. — J. Fowles);
How English Words Are Made.
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