The less the focus on correct spelling and grammar (or its teaching), the more the appearance and usage of annoying neologisms. It may have resulted from deliberate adoption on the user’s part, or as unconscious conditioning from the world around him – peer groups, celebrities and the media.
What are the more irritating examples? Nouns that have become verbs, for one – a phenomenon called ‘verbing’, which in itself is as ghastly as the group of words it describes. Time was when mothers and fathers used to bring up children – now they parent. Critics used to review plays – now they critique them; executives flipchart, and almost everybody googles. Your fax has been actioned. Somebody’s friended you on Facebook. We text from our mobiles, bookmark websites, inbox our email contacts…
Sport is another ready source. Rollerblade, skateboard, snowboard and zorb have all graduated from names of equipment to actual activities. Racing drivers pit, golfers par…
Almost as bad but fortunately less common is the reverse – the use of verbs (or even adjectives) as nouns. “Do you have a solve for this problem?”; “Let’s focus on the build.”; and “That’s the take-away from today’s seminar.”
In classic nominalisation the word involves a morphological change, namely suffixation: for instance, the verb “to investigate” produces the noun “investigation”. In the indolent 21st century it’s more about “zero derivation” – or, more straightforwardly, “conversion.” This is what’s taken place in the opening illustrations: a word has been switched from a verb (or adjective) into noun, without the addition of a suffix.
But it is the second (and newer) trend that grates most.
Overheard in a conversation among teenagers: “My mum is trying to guilt me into it”. And at an education conference, of all places, “We need to dialogue on that”. Not that the news business is immune – when transcribing interviews verbatim, there is talk about verbating them.
I realise that this rant isn’t likely to change a thing, but I needed to ‘onpass’ my displeasure.