The best companies become verbs, says Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.
“Very few brands become verbs,” he said on Sept. 10, as Uber announced it had hired Coca-Cola veteran Rebecca Messina as its first chief marketing officer. “For Uber to have achieved this shows how we’ve captured imaginations and become an important part of our customers’ lives.”
But is Uber actually a verb? We put the question to the Quartz newsroom.
Jane Hu, reporter: Yes, 100%. I also use Lyft as a verb, which is very confusing, but felt vindicated because Issa Rae on Insecure used it that way this week too.
Kira Bindrim, managing editor: Yes, as confirmed by 2016 single “Uber Everywhere.”
Georgia Frances King, ideas editor: Double on the second season of Insecure! She also uses it in the form “I Lyft,” as in “I drive for Lyft,” which is another verb form. Lyft can get more confusing than Uber though, as “lift” is already a verb AND a noun, whereas “uber” is an adjective, so you can’t get confused.
Adam Epstein, reporter: “Uber” is in fact such a strong verb that I and many people I know will use it even if we ultimately get a Lyft instead. You can “uber” in a Lyft, but you most definitely cannot “lyft” in an Uber.
Jenni Avins, reporter: Yeah as much as cabbing is a verb, although in that case, I usually add “it,” as in, “I’ll cab it to your place.” Though TBH I never Uber, I Lyft.
Jason Karaian, finance and economics editor: “I Googled it, Facebooked some friends, and the consensus is that yes, Uber is a verb.”
Heather Timmons, reporter: “We’ll just Uber,” is a sentence I find myself using all the time. Even if I’m Lyfting (and I usually am, because I swore off Uber) I still use it as a verb to describe how I’m getting there. It’s like the Q-Tip (TM) or Jello (TM) of ride-sharing, a brand name that you use to describe all such companies and actions you do while using them.
Preeti Varathan, video journalist: 100%. 1,000%. 10,000%. 100,000%.
Leslie Nguyen, project manager and licensed attorney: IP attorneys everywhere: Absolutely not a verb. You are merely diminishing the value of the trademark with improper usage similar to “google” or “xerox.” Everyone else: verb.
Matt Quinn, technology editor: Personally, I use Uber much like I use Kleenex. “How did you get here?” “I took an Uber.” “I ubered” is too awk for me. I’m also old.
Thu-Huong Ha, reporter: I say “take a cab” for all forms of car hire. I dislike uber as a verb, strongly dislike “uber it,” “cab it” as I hear it said.
Dave Gershgorn, reporter: I don’t personally use Uber as a verb, I’d say that I “call an Uber,” but I certainly respect the fluidity of language to incorporate new verbs. Well, as long as the verb has raised enough venture capital and retains its MAUs.
Tim Fernholz, reporter: I think it’s a probationary verb. I do say and I hear “I uber’d there” or “Just uber” probably about as much as I hear “Take an Uber” or “I came on an Uber.” I’ve never heard anyone say that about Lyft.
Yinka Adegoke, Africa editor: It’s 60% of the way there, grammatically speaking. Still feels a bit odd to say, “let’s uber there”… but the “Uber for X” meme shows it’s definitely more than a proper noun.
Gwynn Guilford, reporter: I’ve definitely heard friends use “uber” as a verb, and I knew what they were talking about instantly. So that’s a pretty good sign right there that it’s passed into common usage. Now, its staying power probably depends on whether that’s just people trying to “make fetch happen,” if you will, or trying to communicate something for which there isn’t a word. So what would you say instead? “Take/get an Uber.” That’s pretty clunky. Plus, even before Uber, people used to say “let’s cab” or “cab it” somewhere, which suggests to me that, yeah, people (in urban centers in which car ownership is rare, at least) have had a longstanding hankering for a verb that says “hire a car to drive you [somewhere].” Then there’s precedent. “Google” became recognized as a verb by Merriam-Webster in 2006, apparently—only eight years after Google’s founding. In that sense, “to uber” might be overdue. (What about xerox? Dunno; haven’t yet looked up.) But by that standard, there might be another hurdle yet to clear. After all, it’s not like “netscape navigate” posed much competition to “google.” Uber obviously lacks Google’s dominance, though. So can “uber” make the same leap to genericization? As it happens, I use Lyft, which doesn’t seem to lend itself to being a verb (maybe in part because its homophone, “lift,” already occupies a sizable semantic patch). So if I start saying “let’s uber there” while thumbing my little pink Lyft app, then I’d say, yeah, it’s passed into common usage. Stay tuned!
Sarah Kessler, editor: I think Uber is only a verb if you let it be a verb. Managed to write 70,000 words about the gig economy without using it. Stay strong, people.
Nikhil Sonnad, reporter: “Verbing” has become extremely common in colloquial english, so virtually no nouns are safe.