Monday, April 30, 2007

Informal abbreviations

There are plenty of informal abbreviations, or shortenings of words out there. We don't really think about these that much in everyday life, but do you consider that they can be harmful to the English language?

Here are some examples and their meanings:

diff - as in "What's the diff?" - difference
Analysis: 1 syllable saved

refi - as in "Refi now!" - refinance
Analysis: 2 syllables saved

Notice we are dealing strictly with spoken word, not written. Abbreviations like i.e, etc., are perfectly acceptable.

These abbreviations would not be appropriate in a formal setting such as a meeting. Similar to verbification that was discuss in the previous post, these kinds of informal abbreviations demonstrate that we can get lazy over language. These abbreviations should only be used colloquially and hopefully never become actual words.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Verbifying things

Have you noticed that more and more words, which are usually nouns, are suddenly turning into verbs? This is the act of verbification: the creation of verbs from words that are normally other parts of speech.

Practically everyone says "google this" when they actually mean to use the Google search engine to find something.

It's often used in marketing speak, as in: "This will impact sales next year." The more correct way to say it would be "This will have an impact on sales next year." since impact is originally a noun and using it as a verb sounds awkward.

More examples of verbification:

"Do you Sudoku?"
"Let's all {insert product name here}!"

Verbification can be thought of as lazy, as it takes fewer words to get your point across. It's often better to use a different word altogether and avoid the awkward phrasing. In the above example, the word influence could be used instead of impact.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Made-up languages, part 1

How many of you have actually made up a language, even during early childhood? Here are two basic examples of such languages.

Op-talk: Insert the letters "op" after each consonant in the word, and leave the vowels alone. Example: yes -> yop-e-sop

Gibberish: Insert "udda-g" after the first consonant in each syllable of the word. Example: yes -> yudda-ges

Why invent a language?

A reason to use an invented language would be to keep those without "expert" knowledge out of the topic of conversation. Say for example, if you and a friend wanted to talk about a forbidden subject, you could use "op-talk" (assuming none of the others around you knew about it!) to communicate. Of course, the aforementioned examples aren't too difficult to crack, and thus one might move onto something more complex.