Friday, February 04, 2005

Losing our inflections

Catching up, my seemingly permanent state of affairs, I see Ruth Walker posted late last month on her Verbal Energy blog a piece on one of my great irritants: The continued and expanding use of nouns in place of adjectives (starting with the Iraq war).

Using nouns as descriptives in place of adjectives (when needed -- one must always throw that caution in with adjectives) is one of the ways to deaden writing.


At 2/4/05, 3:25 PM, Blogger Peter Fisk said...

I sometimes wonder if the way we copy editors write headlines in tight counts might, ironically, be a factor in the overall trend toward increased use of attributive nouns in written English. Heck, we don’t even limit ourselves to nouns. In headlinese, verbs are fair game as attributives: “Kidnap trial,” “Slay suspect.” We find ourselves forced to employ usages in headlines that we wouldn’t allow anyone else to get away with in other contexts.

At 2/4/05, 6:27 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

That's a good point. I think it's also just a product of trying to squeeze more in generally, just as we've seen the dropping of verbs on some TV newscasts. TV may have another role in this, too -- those adjectives often are a tad tougher to say on the air, with another syllable or an ending sound that must be swallowed or moved to the back of the mouth. So you hear the noun form and eventually think it's correct.


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