Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rules for Usage--OR--Furry Little Gerunds

With school and its various scheduled activities back in session, family dinners have become something of a rarity as we try to get back into a routine. At one of these recent gatherings, however, the topic was "parts of speech."

Now, before you roll your eyes and, in your best Dana-Carvey-as-The-Church-Lady voice, say: "Gee, I wonder who started that conversation--the writer, maybe?" I will admit that, yes, I was the poser of the question, the main discusser of the possible answers and the person who laughed and said, "Gee, that sounds like something for a blog post."

So here we are and here we go. Here's the question:

Is there such a thing as a Proper Verb?

We've all heard of Proper Nouns, but by all accounts our language is still developing. The word in question (wait for it....!) is a Proper Noun, but when modified by an appropriate suffix, such as "ed" or used in a particular way within a sentence, it becomes a word of action. (Or, at the very least, a word of procrastination.)

Are you rubbing your chin and furrowing your brow in excitement yet? Are you drooling with the anticipation of a heretofore unclassified species of linguistical wonder?

If so, perhaps you need a hobby.

The word, my boredom-challenged friends, is: "Google"

GOOGLE is the name of a company which makes it a Proper Noun. Therefore it should be given the appropriate capitalization.

But wait! There's more to this seemingly simple Proper Noun!!
When used in a sentence as a verb, such as in "Why don't you just Google it?" the Proper Noun "Google" becomes a verb--a verb referencing an action in regard to a proper noun. So, I assumed, it must be capitalized. After all, if, say, my husband was a renowned expert on repairing antique tractors and his name became with synonymous with tractor repair, it might be cool to hear some old guy say to his buddy, "Why don't you just Dave it?" And Dave would still need to be capitalized.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Google is both a Proper Noun AND a Proper Verb.

Now. I know what you English teachers are thinking. And I know your fingers are just itching to type in a response to this post which claims, without a doubt that, "It's a gerund! It's a gerund!" But I've never been comfortable with the whole "it's a gerund" concept; and I think most people outside the English department staff probably feel the same way. Gerund. Say it with me now: Gerund. It sounds more like something we should learn about in biology class than in Language Arts.

I'm pretty sure we maybe used to raise gerunds on our farm in Iowa. Aren't gerunds sort of fuzzy, busy little love buckets who look like a cross between a rabbit and a hamster and a pygmy marmoset?

What?!? They're not? Too bad. It sounds like a cool pet. Just imagine:

"Hey guys! I got a new gerund! I named him Insomnia cuz that little guy just never quits moving!"

(There's a joke in there for the English Lit/Lang.Arts audience, but you might have to look for it. Maybe if you put on your MP3-player and go for a RUN you'll catch it.)

So if gerunds belong in the Language Arts text instead of the Biology text I suppose there is no such thing as a Proper Verb then, is there.

But maybe there should be. And if ever there was a prime example of the need, it would be the word, Google.

Besides, Proper Verb sounds a whole lot better than Proper Gerund.

Plus, you don't have to feed it.


Tracy Krauss said...

As an English teacher my response would have to be "No comment". :)

Vaughn Kohler said...

Love it. Love the concept of the Proper Verb. Actually, I just took a graduate course called History of the English Language and we talked about this trend of using nouns as verbs. And, you might be happy to know, my Phded (was that a noun used as an adjective? Or...hmmm) English professor never once mentioned the word "gerund." In addition to Google, however, we also identified another common Proper Noun: Facebook.
As in, "just Facebook me and we'll set up a time to meet."

Good post!