Friday, March 28, 2008

Nouns? Becoming verbs? What is happening here?

By Lonnie Cruse

Now then, folks, I can change a noun into a verb with the best of 'em, but I am NOT responsible for the latest trend . . . changing trademarked company names or products into everyday verb usage. So why am I posting this? Because someone called me on the cyber-carpet for doing just that on a discussion list awhile back and it's taken me until now to come up with a response . . . that I cared to print.

This morning I asked my friend, Debby, a question about airline flights, while we chatted on the phone. Her response? "Google it."

See, I told you it wasn't just me. So we Googled it. Googling it seems to be where it's at. And we got answers on Google. And in case you're interested, Debby no longer sweeps her kitchen floor. She "Swiffers" her kitchen floor. So do I, but don't tell anybody.

A couple of years ago I was doing a library talk/signing with author Melanie Lynn Hauser. She wrote CONFESSIONS OF A SUPER MOM and in the book she mentions "Swiffering." She told the audience her hubby wanted to know when Swiffer became a verb. Maybe SHE started the trend? Who knows?

All I know is that it IS a trend, I'm not responsible for it, but I'm just as capable of Googling or Swiffering as the rest of you.

Of course that brings up the point that authors are cautioned to avoid using "was" "has" and words ending in "ing" or "ly." Hmmm. So now we have a double no no. Or do we?

The rules for grammar and punctuation have changed drastically in the last decade or two. I remember a discussion not long ago, on a writer's group, about using contractions. Many were taught never to use them, BUT using full words often sounds awkward in dialogue. Picture this:

I was not going to tell you. (Oops, used the "was" word.)

I wasn't going to tell you.

In my experience, most people use the contraction for general speaking but use BOTH words if they want to emphasize the "not" part.

"Had" seems to be another no no for writers. Personally I like the word, but what do I know? So I cheat and use words like: I'd, she'd, and sneak it in that way. I never said I wasn't (was not?) sneaky.

Which of all of the above do you use in everyday conversation? Listening to people around me, I notice a lot of contractions. Nouns serving as verbs. Ly and ing words. And we do want our written dialogue to sound normal, not stilted. Yet we can't over do it.

I'm most certainly never going to win any awards for grammar, either in my writing or speech. (Speach? Sigh.) I've forgotten most of what I learned in school about it. Yes, it does grate on my nerves when I hear some younger folks who haven't been out of school as long as I have say things like: "I brung it." But some of the newer trends like contractions in speaking or writing or changing trademark words from nouns to verbs is probably here to stay, and we might as well learn to live with it

Alrighty then, anybody up for a bit of scrap booking? Thanks for reading our blog. Blogging is fun. Did I just do it again?


Sheila Connolly said...

There seems to be a grammar virus sweeping the blogs at the moment. How does one make dialogue sound natural? How much grammatical correctness must one sacrifice?

Every time a new commercial appears on television, the writers have appropriated a noun (not necessarily a brand name) and made it into a new verb. On the plus side, we can say we are watching language evolve, from minute to minute. On the minus side--what the heck is that person talking about?

paul lamb said...

Rules are supposed to help facilitate communication by establishing a shared base. Slavish devotion to rules, even when it hinders communication, is the hobgoblin of little minds (to mangle a phrase).

If the reader understands what you're saying, if you're capturing the reader's interest with your word choice and sentence structure, the rules are secondary at best. What does the story demand? That's the ultimate guide.

I suspect those who spout all of the rules for grammar and usage are those who are insecure about their own writing or, worse, envious of others' writing.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Thanks to both of you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I enjoyed reading them!