or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Walking Papers

What is it about verbs ending in vowels that strike such fear into people?

Here's a sentence from Dana Stevens' review of the almost certainly dreadful "Bee Movie" (I won't be going to see it):

But Barry, in the grand tradition of freshly diploma'd movie heroes, just can't get motivated for a lifetime of corporate droning.

"But...but 'diploma' has a vowel on the end of it! How can I tack '-ed' onto it? That'll be two vowels in a row! You can't do that in English! Aaaaaaaah!"

"Diploma" is a verb as well as a noun--it means "to bestow a diploma upon"--and its preterite/participle is "diplomaed". It may look a little odd, but it's correct, unlike the wretched, jury-rigged "diploma'd". (The progressive form of the verb is "diplomaing", which also has two vowels in a row. What would Stevens write for that one--"diploma'ng"? "diploma'ing"?)

There's no getting around it: "-ed" and "-ing" are how we create new verb forms in English, and if the verb is so uncooperative as to have a vowel at the end, you just have to attach the suffixes and soldier on. If you can't stand to do that, then rewrite the sentence so that you don't have to use affixes.* None of this shoving apostrophes where they don't belong.

*I think if I had had to write that sentence, I would have used "diplomated" in preference to "diplomaed", which, I concede, is not an entirely attractive word, impeccably correct though it be. "Diplomate" is a noun meaning "someone who has received a diploma": it's a small step to turn it into a verb, and "diplomated" would very obviously mean "having been turned into a diplomate [by way of having been given a diploma]". That's how we do things in this language.


Anonymous joe805 said...

I'd probably come up with an alternate construction to avoid that kind of awkward (though regular and correct) verb ending.

I'm assuming you saw the results of that recent Harvard study on the half-life of regularization of English irregular verbs? This post reminded me of that and made me consider the idea that all newly-coined verbs (or words previously used only as nouns but which then morph through usage into verbs) would certainly be regular, correct?

Thursday, November 15, 2007 9:39:00 PM  

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