Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I Was Coffeeing While Writing This

An interesting topic came up in The Writing Show's November newsletter. Paula B pondered the "to verb or not to verb" concept in relation to the "verb everything" trend that seems to be taking over.

Verbing (see I'm doing it right there), is taking a noun and mutating it into a verb -- it's often just as simple as adding "ing" to the word. One of the more popular examples of what Paula is talking about is the phrase "googling" -- To google something generally means to look it up online by typing the keywords into google.com (or google.ca if you prefer) and hitting the search button.

While I abuse the English language regularly (you often hurt those you love the most), I like to think of myself of in-line with language purists. I mean, my blood pressure rises when I see simple things like people using "their" and "there" incorrectly or more commonly the misuse of "your" and "you're" -- never mind the complete lack of basic grammatic principles in email and other online-based forums where one can string words together.

But there's something admirable and a bit thrilling about seeing a language mutate, develop and evolve. I can imagine sitting down with my grand-kids one day and saying: "Yes, my little ones, I was there when the term "googling" was first coined. And I remember clearly those days when the Bushification of the American dollar kept the Canadian dollar at its all-time high for years after George Dubya left office." (Bushification might very well be an economic term we use in the distant future in place of such words as "decimation" or "destruction" -- it's much more exciting than Reganomics)

While I'm poking fun at the whole concept, I do have to admit that seeing a language evolve (or devolve as the purist side of my mind wants to say) is terrifying. To that end, I have to look for positive things in it. Here's one. I can also see "verbing" nouns to allow the ability to describe multiple actions in a single word. Such as the phrase: "I was coffeeing while writing this." To coffee can be either the act of making coffee or the act of drinking coffee -- in this particular case, both. So a benefit is that I was able to communicate a simple act of what I was doing in as little words as possible.

That's a good thing isn't it? Well, the phrase does lose clarity -- what, exactly am I doing, making it or drinking it? Hmm, the part of me that loves words, that loves the way they can roll together and create an entire scene, convey an emotion, stir up memories, portray a character and incite a reaction in the reader -- that part of me, the one that takes pleasure in seeing an elegantly crafted sentence of words strung together creating that beauty, well, it recoils in fear at that thought.

However, one thing does give me hope -- the thought that language use and misuse fluctuates like the tide, (or even like the back and forth ramblings of my blog posts), but words abide.


lime said...

i get it, completely. it's fun to play with words and in a relaxed context make them up too. but i also have a purist streak and so often when the media torts out some verbified word or other coinage, or people do it in more formal situations as well, i think it is basically because of a lack of vocabulary on theor count.

my older girl has an astounding vocabulary, always has. so it's not surprising when one of her peers looks at her blankly when she uses a word with a latin root and more than 2 syllables. when her TEACHERS gape stupidly it is almost unbearable. the kid is not pretentious, merely educated and able to express exactly what she means thanks to good language.

ok, soapboxing moment over *wink*

Paula said...

I think it really depends, Mark. I like the word "coffeeing" as you've used it. But please don't tell me that some new development "obsoletes" something else. (BTW, "obsolete" is an adjective. They do it to those too.) To me, this kind of abuse of the language is just pure laziness. You can make something obsolete with just an additional word ("make"). How hard is that?

The idea of "coffeeing" something is a completely new concept. There's no word for that already. That's the difference, at least in this case. Cleverness vs. laziness is the issue as I see it.


Phain said...

and here i thought all along that bushification was when i stopped grooming! ;)

(yeah...i meant down there!)

Anonymous said...

LMAO!! PHAIN!!! YOU TOOK MY COMMENT, that is what I call it!!!

Ryan Oakley said...

People have been "xeroxing" things for ages. Recently, there's been a boom in computer related techs. So terms like googling should be expected and even welcomed. "Searching" is the inaccurate term. Compare: "I searched for cats who look like Hitler" and "I googled cats who look like Hitler."

Anyway, I hear iPod is angry cause all mp3 players are starting to be called pods.

Rainypete said...

The things that are done to the language are terrifying. Especially if you bother to read the newspaper anymore, because apparently the editors don't!!