Coining and Joining: Lightning and Strikes


Coining and Joining: Lightning and Strikes
February 2005
and Culture
from the
Canine Perspective
Dear Cosmo,
I’ve always twisted words, paying no respect
to the English language’s approved guidelines
for tense. Who says I can’t make gerbil a verb?
As in, “I believe something may have been
savagely gerbiled in the corner over there.” I’m
not alone, either. I’ve heard of people
fellowshipping. They just verbed up that word
Voices of central pennsylvania • 19
Coining and Joining: Lightning and Strikes
without any remorse. Does language have to be
a static thing? Signed, Sister Secret Squirrel.
Dear Silent Nun, Holy Nut,
All’s not calm; all’s not bright. There has
always been a tug-O-war round yon versions
mother and child. There are the smotherers,
who would preserve the language by hogtying it and applying a chokehold, and the
emancipators, those spritely pixies who
would yank the loose ends to send language
dredelling hither and thither, spinning
hopelessly out of control while spewing
wordchunks like some linguistic
woodchipper in a tornado. Language is a
static thing if you mean you can scrub your
stocking feet across its vast conceptual
carpet and then discharge the friction on the
back of someone’s ear to give them a shock.
Lightning, in microcosmic doses, frequently
does strike more than twice in the same
place. If I scooch across the carpet, it creates
a shock effect of a different kind for my
human, but more because of the skidmarks.
My colleagues and I have been troubled
by the coining of phrases, which is itself a
diadem coined a la “verbification.” We call
it either or “verbing,” “adjectiving,”or
“nouning” depending on which bastardized
part of speech has been kidnapped to create
some new kind of adminispeak, often
brainstormed by uberthink. Such Dilbertian
executroids and industriocrats claim to be
“visioning” or “futuring,” but perhaps they
Language is a static thing if you mean you can scrub
your stocking feet across its vast conceptual carpet
and then discharge the friction on the back of someone’s
ear to give them a shock.
are merely gerbilling. As the felcher’s Tshirt reads “so many gerbils, so little time.”
Many people may wonder what crawled up
my butt when I cry that The King’s English
has been savaged and garbled, or as you
suggest, savagely gerbiled.
But I ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, and
Elvis’ English can’t be loved tenderly enough,
or be treated more like a fool than when it
encounters the permutations and perversions
one hears in Central Pennsylvania: “this verb
needs conjugated,” or on any college campus:
“I am so splitting this infinitive.” So, I say
that misuse is evil, but creation is divine. If
you want to lash together new words, more
power to ya —it’s time to wrest away the
reins from the inner circlers, the up-andcomers and the out-of-the-boxers. What’s
the big deal about being out of the boxers?
Out of boxers, out of soxers, out of trousers
… Laundry Day has to have its come uppance
sooner or later.
Dear Cosmo,
Since you have a way with words, maybe you
can help. The United Steelworkers of America
(USWA) and the Paper, Allied Industrial,
Chemical and Energy Workers International
Union (PACE) recently voted unanimously to
merge, creating the largest and most powerful
industrial union in North America.
With more than 850,000 active members and
8,000 bargaining units, it will be the dominant
union in metals, paper, forestry products, rubber,
glass, chemicals, energy and other basic resource
industries, to name just a few, with strong
presences in equipment and machinery,
manufacturing, transportation, utilities and the
service sector. Despite this power, it lacks a
good, catchy descriptive name like “Teamsters”
or “Garment Workers,” or “Screen Actors
Guild.” Any recommendations? Signed,
Nameless Labor
Dear Looking For The Union Label,
I’d recommend they also work with the
United Mine Workers — then they could be
called “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” This strategy
might also come in handy as a decisionmaking tool come negotiations time.