Yous, ain’t and other abominations

Posted: March 1, 2012 in Honing the Craft, In my opinion...
Tags: , , , , ,

What I am about  to write could be considered controversial by some.  In fact, I am steeling myself for defriendings and death threats over this post (for one thing, for using the word ‘defriendings’, and for another, maligning pitbulls).  I’ve come across the odd posts, articles and pieces of writing recently that challenge my hitherto rigidly held beliefs on how the English language should most correctly be applied.

Number one – this article entitled “Ain’t isn’t a Four-Letter Word” written by Robert Beard, who holds a PhD in linguistics.  In it, he argues that ‘ain’t’ is legitimate usage, as long as it is only used with ‘I’.  e.g. I ain’t going to work today.  Closely related to ‘ain’t’ is ‘yous’, ‘yall’ and ‘you’ns’, all efforts by native English speakers to create a sensible second person plural pronoun.

Number two – a manuscript I am currently editing which contains a creatively coined and used noun-as-a-verb.  Although the dictionary says “Nooooo”, I thought, “You know what?  I kinda like it.”  And it was used in a colloquial fashion, so contrary to my usual Grammar Pitbull tendencies, I let it stand (or at least left a window of opportunity open for the author to fight for its retention).

Number three – a status update from a Facebook editor friend stating sarcastically that “any noun can also be used as a verb”.

Now, I don’t have a PhD in linguistics; I’m just an interested amateur.  But I thought, if ‘ain’t’ and ‘yous’ are legitimate ways of correcting inconsistencies in the English language, and if there are already a whole heap of nouns being legitimately used as verbs – then why not open it up for the rest of the nouns?  Just looking around me and off the top of my head, here’s a small sample of words already pulling double duty as nouns and verbs:

Floor, table, chair, bottle, watch, dog, foot, hand, head, finger, bin, brush, mirror, bloom, flower, tile, pen, phone, light, book, mop, knife, picture, sandwich, kid, cake, cycle, saddle, ring, egg, train, water, bat

So why not the rest?  Here are a few examples.

Car. Definition – to travel by car.  It was raining today, so instead of cycling, I carred to work.

Coffee.  Definition – to consume caffeinated beverage.  I’m useless until I’ve coffeed at least three times in the morning.

Cat.  Definition – to move in a gracefully haughty manner.  She rejected his advances and catted away.

Child.  Definition – to lumber with an unavoidable, longstanding and expensive responsibility.  He won’t be buying that sports car any time soon, not since he got childed.

Noodle.  Definition – to attempt to have sex despite being unable to achieve an erection.  He was definitely in the mood for sex, but was so drunk he could only noodle.

Not feeling it?  Hmmm.  Come to think of it, neither am I…

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