Vo­cab

Friday - - Mind Games -

Nom­i­nal­i­sa­tion

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.

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