Saturday, June 28, 2008


There's so much cool, positive stuff about language floating around these days that I'm happy to sip a glass of tea and let the impotent mosquitoes of peevology buzz around without swatting at them. But occasionally the stupidity rises to the point that it warrants mention.

Just now, on NPR, the uber-smarmy Scott Simon went into a lame prescriptivist rant (hardly as offensive as his grossly unprofessional anti-Obama slams of last Saturday, but that's a story for another blog). The audio won't be up for a while yet, but if I heard right, Simon shows himself not to be a competent speaker of English. We've just used and mentioned the verb to verb. And I've heard to verbize, an awkward but I suppose possible form. Simon, however, was going off about verby-izing nouns. He describes that as pulling nouns, which were 'perfectly happy' being nouns, 'by the hair' and 'stretching' them into verbs.

Is it too much to ask to have our biggest media outlets show some sliver of sophistication about language?


Jon Boy said...

I'm more worried about the anthropomorphy-izing of syntactic categories.

fev said...

It's nice to know others find Simon hard to take. Do you think somebody ought to let him know that "false positive" and "false negative" actually represent, like, a really important distinction?

I suppose he was trying to present a sort of homage to Carlin. Apparently not being funny is a real handicap in such endeavours.

Mr. Verb said...

Jon Boy, I hate to tell you, but some linguists do that too -- not in the super-crude way he did but they talk about vowels or nouns 'wanting' something or to be in some position. Of course it's 'just a metaphor', but it bugs me.

Mr. Verb said...

Right, Fev, false positive and false negative was maybe the most real-world serious mistake he made.

Carlin is spinning in his grave, by the way.

Jon Boy said...

Mr. Verb: I'm not actually worried about the anthropomorphizing of parts of speech. I just thought this one was particularly stupid.