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The Impact of Power Verbs

People, especially the millennial generation (those born after 1977), don’t talk much on the phone anymore; they text each other. Although texting is fine for quick, impersonal communications, it should never be substituted for professional communication. This phenomenon of taking nouns and turning them into verbs means that the English language is constantly evolving and changing, and therefore style manuals are outdated before they even hit the shelves, which is why this book is not a style manual.

This book does not attempt to identify these urbane, hip, or chic fad words. Instead, a number of nouns that are now action verbs have been included in this compilation because in today’s business culture, the commonly accepted practice is to include particular noun/verbs in the vernacular. Examples of these nouns that have also become accepted action verbs include the following:

Noun

Action Verb

Silo

Siloed

E-mail

E-mailed

Spam

Spammed

Message

Messaged

The impact of action verbs and how they are woven into our collective conscience is evident in the names that advertisers use for their products. For everyday items, we associate those products with action verbs. For example, the Accord car model, Act mouthwash, Agree shampoo, Allure ski product, Ban deodorant, Budget Rent A Car, Converse sneakers, Dodge cars, Eclipse exercise machine, Endeavor spaceship, Edge shaving cream, Equal sugar substitute, Escalade Cadillac, Excel software, Glamour magazine, Gleem (gleam) toothpaste, Google the company, Intuit software, Kindle e-reader, Marvel comics, Pilot pens, Pledge cleaner, Pioneer sound systems, Puff tissues, Quip the precursor to the fax machine, Raid bug killer, Shuffle iPod product, spam, Target retail store, and Vanish home-cleaning product. There are many more...these are just a few examples.

Over the course of time, the inconsistency of English grammar has made it increasingly difficult for nonnative speakers to learn English and even difficult for those who speak English as a first language to speak correctly. Some rules and styles are antiquated and not enforced. As a result, we have become lazy and are losing the war on poor grammar. English is a minefield of rules, and while I can assure you that this book is not a style manual, it goes without saying that if you were to follow all of the rules, then you would have to spend a lifetime studying them, you would end up speaking a language that a normal person would not understand, and, finally, you would be a complete bore.

As with any rule, there are also exceptions, counterexceptions, special rules, do’s and don’ts, and other confusing rules. There are over 60 different rules and variations of rules for verbs alone. Once you have learned the rules, you still have to follow exceptions. For example, consider the word lightning used as a verb. We say it is “thundering and lightning all night.” In this case, it is the only exception to the rule that ing can be added to the base verb to produce the -ing form. We do not say or write it as “thundering and lightninging all night,” nor do we say or write it as “thundered and lightning all night”; in another exception to the rules, we say “we relayed a message” but “we relaid a carpet” (Crystal 1995, 205).

For all my former English teachers, professors, and the dedicated writers of the grammar books on linguistic style and theory who will wonder why there is nothing in this book about active and passive voice, conjugation, copulas, indicative, imperative, subjunctive mood, gradability and comparison, person and number usage, verbal dueling, lexical, linking verbs, modal, primary, axillary, serial, deflective, and transitive or intransitive usage, that is your job. This guide can be thought of as a road map to help individuals toward success in everyday communications. It is that simple!

There is no attempt to excuse people from their responsibility and duty to learn the language correctly. However, there is a time and place for everything. Noam Chomsky, perhaps the most influential figure in the theoretical linguistics of the English language in recent times, conceived the goal of linguistics (all the rules, principles, and regulations) as a description of the mental grammar of native speakers.

Chomsky perceives linguistics to be the system of all these rules to those that characterize the mental structure that underlies our ability to speak and understand the language. Furthermore, Chomsky hypothesizes that humans have an innate language ability that enables children to acquire a mental grammar quickly when they are exposed to a particular language.

It’s pretty amazing to think that a child learns an entire language by listening and some nonverbal cues. By the age of five, a person has about 70% of their lifetime vocabulary and linguistic rules learned by listening and observation.

Chomsky (and this is the last reference to a theorist or an intellectual, I promise) draws a distinction between competence in a language and performance in a language. Competence is the underlying knowledge of the theory and applications, whereas performance is the actual use made of that knowledge. This book doesn’t assume anything; it provides a performance tool for one part of the language—POWER VERBS.

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