March 11, 2008

Verbs, backformed

Backformation of verbs is making verbs by truncating portions of nouns, linguistically and many lexicons often mention the formation process. Backformed nouns are also possible whereby nouns are formed, mostly, by addition portions to verbs. About a decade and a half ago, one of the seniors on the editorial desk, writing a story, used 'to destruct' to mean 'to destroy.' He was corrected in exchange for a bit of frowning. The word 'self-destruct' on red buttons in labs or contraptions in sci-fi led the writer believe that the noun of 'destruction' was 'to destruct.' The verb 'to construct' also had a hand in the belief.

A couple of days ago, a junior writer used the verb 'to solute' to solve the problems, a backformed entity from 'solution.' Asked why he did this, he said the Microsoft Word speller did not mark the word with a red wavy line underneath. Fair enough. He depended heavily on MS speller. But he did not care to consult the dictionary which would have told him that 'solute' is a substance that is dissolved in another substance called 'solvent,' a term in the knowing of the people involved in the studies of chemistry. The Microsoft speller has no reason to mark it with a red wavy line.

March 02, 2008

Words unwarranted, unintended

Writers and even editors have become a lazy lot as they depend mostly on Microsoft Word auto-correct feature to spell words correctly. This feature can be damaging for writers and editors and equally demeaning for the newspaper they work on. 'Intelligence' has for many times become 'intellectual,' and 'presidential' 'prudential.' Even the police 'superintendents' not knowing how to swim have become 'supernatants.' A reporting chief who has set his system to write 'Friday' whenever he keys in 'fri' has ended up in so many bizarre options on so many occasions. A report that reached the desk a few weeks ago contained 13 instances of 'meeting' spelt as 'meting.' Why? The reporter said the auto-correct feature was to blame. He, in fact, somehow earlier mishandled the feature to set 'meeting' to be replaced with 'meting.' Worse still could have happened if he had mistyped 'mating' for 'meting' and the worst that could happen, but did not, that they could get in print as they were spelt by the writer. Never let your writing tools become smarter than you. As for programs, the duffer, the better.