Thursday, November 26, 2009

More Intellectual BS - Don't Make Me Unfriend You!

Growing up I virtually lived the English language at home, not merely learning it. How about you?

My mother was a grammarian at Yale - that's right, she held a degree in English from the most highly regarded University in the US; if not the world. I received a copy of Strunk and White's, The Elements of Style about ten times before she died - I finally read a couple of chapters.

I confess, I hate Scrabble - sorry mom. If I don't get to use the word "ox" on a Triple Point point square, I am D-O-N-E. Wow, that was random.

As a person who writes, as opposed to a writer who is educated in the art, some of my previous grammatical immersion penetrated my viscous brain cells. Thank God for Thanksgiving Day - there was a reprieve from correcting English at the table. That is one of the things I secretly added whilst saying grace once each year.

Who cares about language anyway? I do! Why? Because understanding language - English in particular - is essential to communicating ideas, expressing feelings, telling jokes, and lying. Besides, God speaks to me in English - and well sometimes Portuguese.

Language skills, or lack of them, have been left to the media, publishers, and homegrown bloggers like myself - but I am no Word Girl. Two of the latter three, essentially experts in the field, tell us what we need to know about word usage.

There are a couple of reputable academic publications that guide the canonization of words in the English language. Each year the American Dialect Society (ADS), publishes the academic journal, American Speech containing the Oxford Word of the Year. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary also publishes new words which are added to its pages each year. Many of them are slang terms which become mainstream to pop-culture. The Beatle haircut, for instance. By the way, did you ever wonder why beetle was spelled incorrectly... I never noticed until today.

Irregardless - I'm just kidding - irregardless is not an acceptable word. However; it is in the dictionary - regardless, ADS, and MWC are the institutions that determine when to transform a hyphenated-word into a compound one. IE: e-mail to email, and web-site to website. What a great job title: Hyphen-Remover. I suppose that is the better paying version Dash-Remover.

This year's word: unfriend was chosen for its "currency and potential longevity." Which asks the question, doesn't the word "unfreind" create an abnormal verb sense? Are we saying that the prefix "un" can be used with a verb now? I thought it was used for adjectives including: unattractive, unnerving, unfair and unseen. We get an occasional un-noun such as unrest or unemployment; even unbirthday. But verbs?- well except for unpack - nada. Makes me wish I could "phone-a-friend" (a candidate for next years word - or it may have to wait until Regis is history). In any case, I'd call my mom if I could.

Furthermore; does it surprise you that the word "friend" can now be used as a verb in filling out your favorite Mad Libs? It didn't phase the young adults in my life as I tried explain that friend is a noun. My friend's Percy and Pat - they know about lot about Mad Libs. Their I go, using a noun an a proper noun- amazing. Grammar (that's English grammar, not your mother's mother) is so exciting, maybe next week, we'll have phrasal verbs - I'll look it up.

So what did the drive-your-spellcheck-crazy word unfreind loose out to? Such colloquialisms such as "trampstamp," "Obamaneur," Obamanomics," "hashtag," "intexticated," "netbook," "paywall," and "sexting."

Except for the word trampstamp, a woman's lower-back tattoo, what, if any of these terms has potential longevity? I mean she is going to have to explain that to her geriatric physician. I don't believe any of the above mentioned contenders pass the longevity test like my favorite: "cool," which has for over 50 years.

That reminds me of one other question? What if a man has a tattoo on his lower-back, what is that called?

I am wondering about the resurrection of certain words such as these written in a scathing judgment by Judge Spinner as he reprimanded a foreclosing bank, branding their conduct as "Inequitable, unconscionable, vexatious and opprobrious." Now that's English!

After your Thanksgiving Day nap, you can check out the previous Oxford winners and see what you think - try them in your spellchecker - you'll be amazed.

* 2009: Unfriend (to remove someone as a "friend" on a social networking site such as Facebook.): no new taxes" broken promise)
* 2008: bailout (in the specific sense of the rescue by the government of companies on the brink of failure, including large players in the banking industry.):
* 2007: subprime (an adjective used to describe a risky or less than ideal loan, mortgage, or investment):
* 2006: plutoed (demoted or devalued, as happened to the former planet Pluto):
* 2005: truthiness (popularized on The Colbert Report):
* 2004: red state, blue state, purple state (from the United States presidential election, 2004):
* 2003: metrosexual:
* 2002: weapons of mass destruction (WMDs):
* 2001: 11-Sep:
* 2000: chad (from the 2000 presidential election controversy in Florida):
* 1999: Y2K:
* 1998: e- (as in "e-mail"):
* 1997: millennium bug:
* 1996: mom (as in "soccer mom"):
* 1995: web and (to) newt (to act aggressively as a newcomer, like Speaker Newt Gingrich during the Contract with America):
* 1994: cyber, morph (to change form):
* 1993: information superhighway:
* 1992: Not! (meaning "just kidding"):
* 1991: mother of all (as in Saddam Hussein's foretold "Mother of all battles"):
* 1990: bushlips (similar to "bull&!%$" – stemming from President George H. W. Bush's 1988 "Read my lips, no new taxes comment.)


photogr said...


English Grammar was not one of my strong subjects in school and it shows.

Over the years, I have noted that in the Thorndyke dictionary there are more words,verbs,nouns,and adjectives with the beginning letters: A/B,C/D,and S/T than any of the other letters. What does this mean? I ain't got no clue. Just an observation.

Tony C said...

If you had me as your Phone-A-Friend, I'd tell you both untie and unnerve are verbs.

I like crack stacker for a guy...but that's just me.

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