• Just what does that word mean?

    • email print
  •  OK, time for a question from English class.
    Wait. They haven’t taught that for years. It’s given way to something called language arts, despite no evidence that fuzzy language helps sharpen young minds. Maybe that’s part of the problem.
    Our question: Which of the following is a noun? Remodel, reveal or refresh.
    Don’t overthink this.
    The answer, of course is that none of them are – they are perfectly good verbs, and that’s it – but you cannot sit through an evening of TV without hearing them rendered as nouns or suffering similar foolishness. When you refi your house, you’ll have money for a remodel. The other day the iPhone was reported to be on the verge of a refresh. No doubt that will come with a lot of fanfare during the big reveal.
    I understand language evolves and that some concepts need to be reimagined from time to time, but much of this is pretentious and revolting. We must resist. I’m up for the revolution, but those are usually forward-looking. Holding the line on good language has a distinctly retro feel.
    It’s getting worse. Look at how quickly sequestration – itself nothing but legalese used by politicians trying to make something not sound like what it really is – was reduced to simply “the sequester.” I guess if I march into the kitchen to make dinner, I am not the cook any more because I am instead performing “the cook.”
    This is a fight against what’s called nominalization, switching verbs and even adjectives into nouns, although if you did the homework for today you already knew that. You would also know this: Words flop back and forth over the centuries. “The reveal” grates on every neuron in my brain, but it isn’t new. It’s just new to our times.
    This more or less means I have no leg to stand on as I mutter at the TV or the morning paper, but that is my lone hobby these days. Besides, I have an unassailable fallback position that everyone can understand. I know what I don’t like and, therefore, don’t approve of. I am probably beyond redemption, but I will not retreat.
    It’s true that the world’s few word nerds should focus more on rampant problems: “me and him,” “there, their and they’re” and, of course, random apostrophes. “Puppy’s for sale.” Who invented that and sent it viral?
    Perhaps my reactions are reflexive and could stand more reflection. I should relax and embrace the reinvigoration of the language. The hidebound traditionalist in me rebuffs the very idea.
    As the kids – nominalizationists, all of them – would say, this is a big fail. We must retrench and hold the line. The alternative is regrettable.
    Page 2 of 2 - Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter @FoxEJC. Reach him at jeff.fox@examiner.net.