Saturday, August 18, 2007

Writing Is Easy: Down With Stupid Verbs!

I've decided to create a new regular installment here at Dregs that I like to call "Writing Is Easy." I think someone else has something with that same name somewhere on the internet, but I like it, so I'm going to use it as well.

Each episode of "Writing Is Easy" will provide tips and/or advice on writing. I figure, since I do it professionally, I might be able to share a thing or two with you, the reader, though I will most likely use "Writing Is Easy" as a thinly disguised platform to rant about the degradation of our language.

Take, for example, today's exciting episode: Down With Stupid Verbs!

Lately, as I've read various and sundry "entertainment" style websites in an effort to keep up with newly released motion pictures, I've noticed the insidious creep of the word "pen." As a verb. Where it shouldn't be.

"Pen" has long been used as a verb, but it's only recently begun to bother my somewhat literal mind. For example, two days ago I read the phrase "So-and-So penned the screenplay." Now, the likelihood that So-and-So used an actual pen seems pretty low, so, in the interest of accuracy, it seems to me that the phrase should be "So-and-So keyboarded the screenplay."

See? Doesn't make sense when you look at it that way.

What's wrong with plain ol' "write" and its variations? Why didn't So-and-So "write" the screenplay? Because people think "write" is boring and want to go with something they propose to be fresher and edgier. It is the sad state of our exclamation mark culture, where people no longer want to communicate--they want to outshout the competition.

But I digress.

Another stupid verb? "Google." I don't know why, but it annoys the heck out of me when I hear this used as a verb (and I hear it all the time). "Google" is a proper noun, not a verb. It can also be used as an adjective, which is how I use it: "I did a Google search on 'pomegranate juice,'" for example. I understand I'm kicking against the goads here, and that eventually I will be dragged kicking and screaming into Google-verb acceptability, but I'll fight it as long as I can. I shall not be a Google-verb Pod Person.

What about you, theoretical reader of my blog? Any verbs-that-aren't-really-verbs that stick in your craw? There's a whole comments section below just a-waitin' for your thoughts.


Micah Choquette said...

Okay, I understand your wanting to keep words in their respective places, but the fact is--you're incorrect. To "google" is an actual, bona-fide transitive verb that has a proper meaning. As does the word "pen". While there is nothing wrong with the alternatives and their variations, might you be merely grasping for a solution for your ill-resolved attempts to embrace modern, hip English verbatim? All of this, is of course, a joke--and you're not without reason--there's a local sports writer who frequents the term "bucketed" in basketball. I hate it. Keep the good stuff coming, Adam! :)

Micah said...

Oh- and I thought I might mention--becoming a Google Pod Person is to be expected, accepted and welcomed. :) Welcome to the dark side, Adam.

Adam said...

Sigh... even Merriam-Webster has turned against me. If we don't have language, we don't have anything.

My complaint is not so much against the creation of new words--I do it all the time, though usually via hyphenation--it's against pointless or lazy word creation. Writers who say a screenplay was "penned" by a "scribe" are trying to be different. It's edginess for the sake of edginess, without any real thought behind it, and at this point, it's now industry-standard in places like Entertainment Weekly or Variety.

I'm reminded of the Calvin & Hobbes strip wherein Calvin announces he's going to start "verbing words" in order to make himself incomprehensible. In his words: "Verbing weirds language." Hobbes then wonders if we can eventually make language an impediment to communication. It's fast approaching, friend.

Just be glad I didn't mention the cringe-inducing "dialogue" as a verb. Again: sigh...

Mark Keefer said...

Your write Adam.


It's not the Penner's Guild of America, it's the Writer's Guild of America. Hollywood ironically abandons their own (clear and useful) nomenclature to have an edge.

Edge, smedge.

Excuse me while I go and Xerox some pages from a book.