Opinion and Editorial

'Whatevs' happened to modern English?

Annie Mathew (Linguistic Twist)
Filed on November 7, 2019 | Last updated on November 7, 2019 at 11.19 pm

These changes have been happening for ages. Shakespeare was a master at it.

I have always found it appealing to talk to kids and youngsters and get a glimpse into their world. While many things are interesting and thought provoking, what amuses me most is their language. The way they speak to you and the words they use have undergone tremendous transformation over the years.

The other day I was chatting with a friend's daughter who informed me that her 'meet' with the team was Gucci, which meant good and cool, as I realised later. I understand that language evolves over the years but being old school this sudden onslaught is giving me the 'feels'. Oh no! Am I 'bandwagoning' it too?

I'd have never thought such words could be 'nouned' this way. I have a consult with the doctor, she sent me an invite...when did 'consult' 'invite', 'feels' etc. become nouns? Verbing, nouning? 'Whatevs' happened to linguistic purism?

Though these changes have been happening for ages, it seems Shakespeare was a master at it, and the advent of social media seems to have accelerated the process.

That reminds me that I was once told that I should not be 'seemsing' so much and when I tried to retort I was told not to 'but' so much either!

In our school days, we'd invariably have questions in our English question paper to convert verbs to nouns and vice versa. What a nightmarish situation that would create for the examiner if that were to be asked now. Guess all answers would be correct. Imagine if we were to ask a senior teacher from yesterday, "Could you 'clue' us in on your 'ask' from the grammar portions?" she'd probably have a faint, I mean she might faint for more reasons than one.

Steven Pinker, a linguist and professor at Harvard puts it simply when he says 'Easy conversion of nouns to verbs has been part of English grammar for centuries; it is one of the processes that make English English'.

What's the 'conclude' from this 'write'? Language is a 'happening' field and so let's flow with the flow but in case you have a 'disconnect' I will be 'e-vailable' for a 'discuss'.

- The writer is based in Dubai

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