Sunday, March 31, 2013

My Say

There was an interesting article in the Sunday Review section of today's New York Times.  (At least, it should be interesting to writers and linguists.)

Henry Hitchings wrote the article, titled "Those Irritating Verbs-as-Nouns."  In it, he notes the trend towards using verbs and adjectives in place of nouns.  The term for this is nominalization.

Examples include "I have a solve" in place of "I have a solution," and "That was an epic fail" instead of "They failed to an epic degree."

Of course, this process has been going on as long as the English language has existed.  As Hitchings points out, "ask" has been used as a noun for a thousand years, although we often add a modifier, like "the big ask."  I seem to recall several characters in James Clavell's Noble House (published 1981) referring to "the ask" - in this case, was part of a debt that the founder of the Noble House had incurred over a hundred years previously.

And how many newspaper or magazine columns have you seen titled "My Say" or "Having My Say"?

Just another tool for writers.  If nothing else, you can use it to make one character's speech different from that of another character.

1 comment:

  1. I quickly found these two examples of the nominalization of "ask" in James Clavell's Noble House:

    "One of his asks before...before I married him was that I would not question him" - Chapter 63, Riko Anjin, speaking of her strange marriage to her husband, Alan Medford Grant, a spy.

    "If that's out, then the whole deal's off and I'll put Four Finger Wu's ask in place." - Chapter 89, Paul Choy, negotiating, referring to his late father's plans to involve the Noble House in narcotics smuggling.