I found the phrase “duct-tape together” in the following sentence of a Washington Post (June 21) article written by Chris Cillizza under the title “Gingrich campaign hit by more departures.” The sentence in question is a quote from Newt Gingrich’s former spokesman, R.C. Hammond:
“We are going to duct-tape together one coalition of Americans after another that believes in his large, bold vision of change.”
As it was the first time that I came across ‘duct tape’ being used in verb form, I consulted several dictionaries at hand and online dictionaries to check whether it can be used as a verb or not. None of them shows the usage of ‘duct tape’ as a verb.
For example, Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia simply defines it as
n. duct tape is cloth-or scrim-backed pressure sensitive tape often sealed with polyethylene.
Audio English Net. defines it
a wide silvery adhesive tape intended to seal joints in sheet metal duct work but having many other uses
without any mention as a verb.
Is it normal or taken for granted to use ‘duct tape’ in verb form as quoted in the Washington Post article?
This is, I learn, called conversion in lingustics:
also called zero derivation, is a kind of word formation; specifically, it is the creation of a word from an existing word without any change in form
making a verb out of a noun:
Verbification, or verbing, is the creation of a verb from a noun, adjective or other word.
In English, verbification typically involves simple conversion of a non-verb to a verb. The verbs to verbify and to verb are themselves products of verbification (see autological word), and—as might be guessed—the term to verb is often used more specifically, to refer only to verbification that does not involve a change in form. (Verbing in this specific sense is therefore a kind of anthimeria.)
Examples in English number in thousands and this is a very potent source of neologisms, due to the fact that newly coined words take a well defined meaning from the noun. It is typically used when there is no ambiguity (compare to tape with to glass; while tape is an object with clear dominant use, glass is not so it is not so effective).
Of course, prescriptivists oppose it on principle, but also others oppose it when it is not done ‘in the spirit’ of the language, for example the following quote from Bill Waterson’s:
Calvin: Verbing weirds language.
is perfectly understandable, but it sounds very strange.
In cases where it does not weird it – it is easily accepted. In your example, the way the noun ‘tape’ was verbed into verb ‘tape’ provides an established path for “duct tape” to follow.