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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Verse is Not a Verb

Verse is Not a Verb

On our way to Field Day last Friday, one of my students asked me, “Are we going to verse the orange house classes, or just purple house?” (Yes, our school is divided into houses like Hogwarts, but that’s a different story.)
“Verse is not a verb,” I replied.
He made an aggravated noise. “Are we going to versus the orange house classes?”
“Versus isn’t a verb either.”
The expression on his face showed he wasn’t getting any satisfaction out of our conversation. “Are we going against orange house?” he demanded.
“Going is a weak verb,” I said. “Are we competing against orange house? Or: Are we playing against orange house? Those would be good ways of asking the question.”
At that point, he ran away to talk to someone else.
I fight the grammar battle every day – as pleasantly as I can – but I think I’m losing.
My bad.
Aarrgh! How I railed against that expression when I first heard it! Bad is an adjective! You can’t say: My bad! The modifier my requires a noun somewhere in the construction! My bad mistake: now that would be okay. I fought it and fought it – and then one day I used it.
I sucked in my breath in horror. I had succumbed. It was a dark day.
The English language developed from the Germanic tribes of the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes. It has always been a living, changing, versatile language, although the invention of the dictionary slowed its evolution (freezing some really weird spelling patterns that might otherwise have disappeared over time). I wonder if, back in the day, children speaking Middle English sneered at their parents, saying, “Oh, forsooth that!” while the parents chastised them: “Forsooth is an adverb! You can’t use it like a verb!”
I have no problem with new usage of words that reflect our changing technology. Yes, google is a verb, and so is friend … if you’re talking about Facebook. But transformations bred of pure laziness and lack of understanding of words – I am bound and determined to fight that. (Note: I didn’t say I’mma fight that!)
The day I hear myself ask my family, “Does anyone want to verse me in Scrabble?” I will slap myself silly.

8 Responses to Verse is Not a Verb

  1. Sarah says:

    Oh, this is a difficult one. My sister is a linguist and I’ve learned so much from her in terms of how language changes over time. Still, it’s painful to hear and read sometimes!

  2. Linda G. says:

    LOL! I was just pulling my hair out this morning over a grammar issue in my blog post. If I chose the correct version of a certain sentence, I felt it would sound stuffy — not really in keeping with my casual blogging voice. But it was really difficult for the English teacher in me to use the grammatically incorrect version.

    In the end, I chose voice over grammatical correctness. Funny thing is, I doubt anyone will even notice. Well, except maybe teachers. *grin*

  3. LOL at “he wasn’t getting any satisfaction out of our conversation.” You think?

    I don’t think my kids have created any new words unintentionally. My 7 year old has taken to not using contractions. She doens’t say, “I don’t know.” It’s now “I do not know.” It’s hiliarious everytime she says it.

  4. salarsenッ says:

    Wow! I hear you on this point. About a year and a half ago, I took an online vocabulary/grammar course. Of all the lessons I learned, I think the greatest was how our language is a living, breathing entity. I’d never seen it that way before. Those changes, however, must reflect the world around us in an appropriate and correct way. It’s not always easy to correct, either. With social media and television at its peek, improper usage is all around us.

  5. what about ‘forward’- can you forward this email for me? lol.

  6. Here are two of the words that make me cringe worse than fingernails raking the blackboard: “conversate” and “strategize.” And the sad thing is, both of these words are creeping into the language of professional, allegedly educated people who should know better. Some phrases drive me nuts, too, like “any way, shape, or form.” ARRRGH! When a newscaster uses that phrase, I want to throw a shoe at the TV.

  7. Bad grammar seems to be an acceptable way to talk to many people, it seems. And technology, social networking, etc. is certainly affecting the way words are used! I understand your frustration.

  8. Lin-z says:

    Do I have permission to blog The Caged Graves?