Wednesday, September 21, 2011

RIP Retired English Teachers

English is a wonderful language.  It is dynamic, changing with contemporary use.  The straightforward syntax of English allows words to tell without elaborate grammatical arrangements. Words can change class easily - a noun in one sentence, adjective in another, even a verb.  For example: George is her husband.  He did not act in a husbandly way when he flirted with the clerk.  He will husband her dowry carefully.  In each generation there are those who resist changes in grammar and usage.  They justify their view by invoking their mother or grandmother as in "my grandmother would turn over in her grave if she heard....".  But the language moves on nevertheless and accommodates change. 

I have my favorite examples.  The use of "atbat" as a noun, as in "He had a difficult atbat, striking out after four fouls".  This week I heard a popular new noun.  On the TV show "Antiques Roadshow", "yard saling" slipped from the lips of an on-air interviewee.  And I saw in print a verb coined by flight attendants telling you to "power down" your computer.  The instructions for my fancy new head lamp (used for walking dogs after dark) advised me to "power down" the light before changing the batteries.

I am a fan of these developments.  Last week I wrote about pipe organs.  It is from pipe organ performance that we have the phrase "pull out all the stops".  The stops are used to control air flow through the pipes.  Pulling out all the stops would result in maximum volume.  You can think of your own examples of our language in dynamic change.  Use a new word today.

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