Thursday, June 14, 2007

Went missing

At his blog, John McIntyre comments on the term "went missing" (or "gone missing") that seems to grate on so many ears, and he points to two good posts by Crawford Killian on "Ask the English Teacher."

McIntyre's basic point: It's a serviceable term, if a bit British, so get over it.

And I'm inclined to agree. But a bit of queasiness remains. First, it does sound a bit like an affectation, but that will go away with use.

Second, however, is the sense of the term and how, to me at least, it seems to imply volition -- the choosing or willing exercise. When you say, for instance, "she went to the store" or "she's gone to the story," there's an implication that it was done willingly. So if you "went missing," did you do it willingly?

Not to overblow that, but that tiny voice in the back of my head says the connotation remains a wee problem.

Two thigs occurred after reading John's second post on the matter:
-- Even idioms become trite when overused. I think that's what's bothering me lately about the term as well -- we seem to have fallen in love with it to the point of abusing it.
-- It's weak on the brevity scale. In almost all the uses John cites, "disappear" or "disappeared" would work quite well. I'll often happily take a two-for-one swap.

My point: Yes, go ahead. Use the term -- sparingly. Let it not be the first thing you reflexively take out of your word quiver just because it seems to be the fashion of the moment. And understand that some of us don't see it as quite as neutral as John would have us.

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At 7/11/07, 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have wondered about this for some time. I found your blog by doing a google for: wentmissing/disappeared. I realize words can be a fad, but I thought the first rule of writing was to use proper English.

At 9/10/09, 10:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"She went crazy" implies that she went crazy willingly?

At 9/10/09, 11:27 PM, Blogger Doug said...

Maybe not directly, but the phrase does have a harshness to it that carries some connotations. Perhaps that's why you don't hear it used so much anymore.

At 5/31/11, 3:28 PM, Blogger Cecilia said...

Yes, Anonymous, she WILLINGLY 'went crazy' over something!

I can appreciate a new word but it seems the new word gets worn out besides, I like 'disappeared' or 'missing'.


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