Sunday, January 9, 2011

Banished Words

I look forward to the list of overused words published by Lake Superior State University every New Year's Day. This year's list includes Facebook and Google as verbs.

Jordan from Waterloo, Ontario nominated these words, saying,"Facebook is a great, addicting website. Google is a great search engine. However, their use as verbs causes some deep problems." 

What are these deep problems? Yes, I could say, "Please contact me through Facebook," or "Search online using Google," but honestly, why would I when "Facebook me" and "Google it" are so much more concise? Would I also have to stop using email as a verb?  How about phone? ("Please send me a message through electronic mail if you are not able to contact me via the telephone.")

People! Language changes! Nouns get turned into verbs! Verbs get truncated! Some words die and slip from living memory. Others are born and take their place. This is what language does. Diss is now a verb in the Oxford English Dictionary! (Disses, dissing, dissed!) This is what language is.

My grandparents, who were born during World War I, sometimes prefaced a particularly dire warning with "I'll tell you something, and that's not too." Or maybe they were saying, "And that's not two."  Either way, the phrase makes no sense. They're dead now, so I can't ask them what they meant. I've tried reconstructing the sentence ("I'll tell you one thing, if not two"?). I've tried asking other family members, and while they remember the expression, they cannot explain it. I've even tried googling it, to no avail. The phrase remains incomprehensible. That's a deep problem in communication.

No comments:

Post a Comment