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Like google is a verb, is java a word? Can I say "I java"?

I am wondering if it works that way, or if I have to say, "I do java."

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    Please note: Java takes a capital J. – Lambie Jun 18 at 18:31
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    Side note: Oracle (and formerly Sun) asks that the trademark "Java" is used as an adjective. "It's written in the Java programming language", not "It's written in Java". In practice, no one cares. – that other guy Jun 18 at 20:38
  • @thatotherguy - Interesting. In the early 2000s, Google underwent similar angst about using Google as a verb (see this Wikipedia article). Also of note: that article describes how the verbification happened due to the "increasing popularity and dominance of the Google search engine." Since the Java programming language isn't nearly as prevalent in everyday nomenclature, widespread use of Java as a verb seems very unlikely. – J.R. Jun 18 at 21:14
  • @thatotherguy I believe it is standard legal advice that the various kinds of trademarks, and specifically registered trademarks, are always used as adjectives for products or services, as there is legal precedent for losing the special rights if the word is "genericised", ie, used by ordinary people as the generic word for the thing. "Kleenex", "Hoover" etc. – jonathanjo Jun 19 at 18:21
  • @thatotherguy Poor Sun Microsystems! Don't they know that "Java" is an attributive noun in that phrase? If they wanted to trademark an adjective, they should have called it "The Javan programming language". ;) – Ben Kovitz Oct 24 at 22:41
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What you're talking about is colloquially called the "verbification" or just "verbing" of nouns that do not have any standard verb forms. This is a fairly common way to play with English language norms:

Abel: You say you cook? Like what?
Blain: Well, I salad, I soup, and sometimes I spaghetti.

With the understanding that it is a colloquial and informal usage, and therefore kind of humorous: yes, you can say:

I Java.

Otherwise, in a more formal situation, say:

I can do Java. / I can program in Java.


(Edit) As with many clever and colloquial expressions that play with normal language patterns, context is key. Saying "I spaghetti" is meaningless without a context that defines whether you mean you eat it, cook it, tangle things up like it, or some other possible definition. For example:

I tried to fix the legacy code, but I'm afraid I just spaghetti'd it up even more.

This is a play on the programming expression "spaghetti code". If you are aware of this expression, the meaning of "spaghetti'd" is obvious. If you are not aware of it, then the meaning will be confusing. In the same way, "I Java" would not have the intended meaning (and humor) outside of an informal conversation about programming languages.


As with any colloquial usage, the question of can you say something is separate from the question of whether you should say something. It depends on how familiar you are with the nuance. Do you know exactly what the expression means? Are you aware of its origin? Have you considered any alternate interpretations that might be misleading or even offensive? Would your audience appreciate your cleverness, or would they think less of you for it? And many others.

That's really a question for meta, as it's less about learning English as it is about learning any language. For now, I'll leave this answer as is, and expect that English learners will understand my caveats to the explanation.

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    Although it adds to the answer for completeness; I would seriously recommend English language learners avoid making the joke of turning nouns into verbs; as it has a real risk of playing into stereotypes and making you appear to comprehend English worse than you do. – Bilkokuya Jun 18 at 13:35
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    I don't think this answer could be any more confusing to a person who's learning English. No, you shouldn't say "I Java". It doesn't make sense in any context. Let's leave it at that. – Apologize and reinstate Monica Jun 18 at 14:57
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    To chime in: "I Java" makes you sound like a pompous nerd of the highest order. – freedomn-m Jun 18 at 16:24
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    Andrew, here is a good test: If a foreigner with a shaky command of English says "I Java", will you think that they are being playfully inventive in their use of language, or will you think that they made a mistake? You are actively encouraging user97122 to make mistakes! – TonyK Jun 18 at 18:33
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    @TonyK Here's a good test: You are learning another language, and you ask about a particular sentence structure. The answer is, "Yes, you can -- but it's kind of silly and may not be appropriate in formal circumstances." Does that answer make sense to you? Is it at all unclear? Would you still use that phrase indiscriminately? Why do you assume English learners aren't at least as perceptive as you would be? – Andrew Jun 18 at 18:38
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I don't know of a context in which "Java" wouldn't be a proper noun or adjective, except perhaps as a (rare?) colloquialism for coffee. If you're worrying about correctness, you should certainly capitalize it.

It would sound pretty strange to people if you used it as a verb. I think part of this is that "Java" has other meanings besides the programing language. Specifically, it's a large island in the Pacific, and coffee from Java is sometimes called "java".

In theory, you can verb any you like, but even if everyone understands you (and they may not), they'll still think you sound wrong.

  • The coffee doesn't have to be from Java to be called java anymore – mcalex Jun 18 at 7:57
  • "you can verb any you like" -> "you can verb any noun you like" (to small for me to edit) – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jun 18 at 18:37
  • Oh, I did that on purpose. You understood what I meant. :) – ShapeOfMatter Jun 18 at 18:40
  • @ShapeOfMatter Datapoint, of sorts :-) : Coffee was termed Java coz that's whence it at one time mainly came from. The Java language was named after the alleged propensity of programmers to burn the midnight oil consuming 'Java' to stay awake. So, I'd allege that "a rare colloquialism" is a rather large understatement. [All material issued under IMHO and/or WWIK licences ]. – Russell McMahon Oct 27 at 0:46
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No, "I Java" does not work in the same way.

'To google something' has become synonymous with 'to use a search engine to search for something', partly because of Google's dominance in the market and partly because there was no concise way to express that same idea unambiguously; it evolved out of convenience. When this happens, the trademark is said to have become genericized. It's fairly rare but by no means exclusive to Google.

Other examples include "that looks photoshopped", (in the UK) "I hoovered [vacuumed] the carpet", "the police tasered the suspect".

There really isn't an easy way to know whether a company or product name can be used as a verb. Usually you can't. It's simply a matter of experience to learn the exceptions.

In your case I would say "I program/code in Java".

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    I note that the OP used "google" (lower-case) as the verb, rather than the proper-case "Google". Here you use lower-case verbs, but the brand names are Photoshop, Hoover, and Taser. – Monty Harder Jun 18 at 16:56
  • @MontyHarder Not sure whether I'm missing something - are you saying there is a difference between what OP said and the other examples I have given? When a trademark becomes genericized, it is rarely used as a proper noun (when being used in the generic sense). A Dyson is a hoover but it is not a Hoover. – Michael Jun 18 at 17:29
  • I agree. 'I Java' is currently incorrect. You would first have to popularize using Java as a verb. Java is currently NOT a Verb. It is a bit shocking that the top answer is so wrong. If you want to popularize using Java as a Verb (by saying, 'I Java' to everyone) then give it a go; good luck and have fun. But this is currently NOT CORRECT. Language and colloquialisms are always evolving. I program in Java or I use java for programming or I code in java like David Rice suggests. – Fractal Jun 18 at 19:13
  • @Michael I'm pointing out that both you and the OP used lower-case verbs "google", "photoshop", "hoover", and "taser", and that you used proper-case brand names, as an indicator that those have been generecized, but the OP's "I Java" shows with that single "J" that it has not even in his own mind, or he'd have typed "I java". – Monty Harder Jun 19 at 15:13
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If you're talking about Java (the language) I'd say:

"I write Java" or "I program in Java" rather than "I do Java". You could say: "I can do Java" but it does not necessarily mean you are doing so currently, it just means you have the ability to write Java.

  • Right--you can say "I Java" if you're being silly/casual, but "I do Java" doesn't really fit into silly/casual OR serious. – user3067860 Jun 18 at 13:04
  • "I do Java" can be used to answer the question: "What language do you program in?" – Pieter B Jun 18 at 14:52
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    @PieterB If someone asks me "What language do you program in", I'd just reply with something like simply "Java". Or "I use Java". "I do Java" still sounds strange to me. :) – Dylan Meeus Jun 18 at 14:56
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As a programmer, I'd say you "use" Java, or you "code in" Java. You can say you're a Java programmer, if that's your primary language, but it'd be very nonstandard (though probably still understandable by programmers) to say that you Java.

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While using many nouns as verbs is perfectly valid in the English language, verbifying a noun is also a subtle art that requires a fair amount of cultural context to do right.

In the specific example, using the name brands Google and Java, one is often used as a verb that is synonymous with doing an online search, because it is the most common way to search online, by far. Java, though, is one semi-popular programming language out of many. While a native speaker might be able to figure out your meaning through context, if someone were to tell me "Let's java it up," I would be more likely to think that they're asking me to accompany them to a cafe than to think that they want us to go write some software using the Java programming language.

For most nouns, though, the verb form only imparts a specific quality of that noun, and not every quality.

For example, when using "floor" as a noun, it means to bring something low, rather than to make something a surface for walking. For instance, in signal processing, to floor a signal means to completely suppress it. In math, to floor a number means to round it down, even if normal rounding techniques would round it up. (17 becomes 10.)

A doughnut (also spelled donut; both spellings are correct, with "donut" becoming more common) is known for being a small circle. "Doing doughnuts" while driving means to drive in very tight circles, especially so that you lose traction and leave circular skid marks on the road. "To doughnut" has nothing to do with pastries, carbohydrates, frying, etc.

To plank is to hold your body rigid, often over a gap or against a wall, pretending to be a wooden board.

There can also be unexpected meanings of a verbified noun. When in a car, "flooring it" means to go very fast, rather than lowering the car. (The subject of the phrase "floor it" is referring to the accelerator pedal, rather than the car... To floor that pedal is to push it as close to the floorboard as possible.)

Additionally, to groove is specific to some regions of North America, and is losing usage. It is roughly synonymous to dancing, and comes from the grooves on pressed vinyl records.

Most native English speakers will not attempt to create new verbified nouns unless they are in an extremely informal setting and are attempting to be humorous. We also do not expect nouns to be verbified in general, except for the ones that we already think of as verbs through common use, such as to google, to do doughnuts, to floor it, etc. If someone already speaks English fluently, we can figure out their meaning with a moment of thinking, but if someone isn't fluent, we'll assume that they misunderstand the rules of the language, and often won't be able to infer the intended meaning.

And back to the original phrase in question, "I java..." There is already a verbified noun that means what you intend to say: Program.

A program is a list of instructions to accomplish a task. It was verbified in the 1970's to include writing software. "I write programs in Java" can be shortened to "I program in Java," but it would lose too much meaning to shorten it further to just "I Java." It would be like trying to say "I draw with yellow paint," but shortening it too far to just "I yellow" instead of "I paint in yellow." And just as Java is both a programming language and a type of coffee, yellow is both a color and a slang term for cowardice. If I heard someone say "I yellow," I would assume they're admitting to being afraid, just as I'd assume that someone who wants to java would want to drink coffee.

In any case, I would not say that "I do Java" unless the conversation were already firmly established in the context of writing software. For example, "Which programming language do you use?" "I do Java, PHP, and C++."

  • For me, the first meaning of 'floor" as a verb that comes to mind is to shock or startle someone, so that they are metaphorically laid out on the floor, or to hit someone, so that they are physically laid out on the floor. – David Siegel Jun 21 at 17:43

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