Monday, 12 March 2012

More Banerkness

Thanks to J Coates for comments on Banerk - see  Banerk , particularly for the fact that he has spotted a howler - using 'verb' where I should have used 'adjective'. Small consolation that these terms are so untaught that they are in the process of becoming jargon, specialised terms for those working within the field rather than common parlance.

But the case does flag up the current freedom regarding the way that words move across grammatical boundaries of use, which would in former times have had English teachers gnashing their teeth. 'To friend' someone, and 'very fun', are exciting or ugly and ungrammatical, depending on your point of view.  When feeling unsure of how I feel about these I revert to  pragmatism - if it works, it works. But have I got anything other than a gut feeling to know whether it works? And if so, my gut feeling is determined by my cultural capital, what I read now, what books there were in my home when I was a child, current and long-gone conversation round meal tables, what newspapers I choose, and so on, all delineated by Pierre Bourdieu long ago. Trying to ditch prejudices as regards 'good English' does maybe allow me to look at current changes in language in the same light as past imaginative literary usage, but it's not easy; it means ditching a part of what makes me me.  

If 'bad' English sticks in the throat, then sometimes good 'bad' English restores faith in the dynamism of the language.  I like 'kardash'; it's fun, and there's wit in the punning image of people rushing to get away from a ceremony.  In Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, Cleopatra's battle of verbal irony with Octavius is summed up in her 'He words me, girls, he words me, that I should not be noble to myself'. No question that the use of 'word' as a verb here works, and then some (not sure yet about how I feel about that last phrase - maybe raincheck it in a decade or so). 

'Raincheck' as a verb?  Why not? A rain check was originally a definite booking for a later date, but the open-endedness implied in 'check' has led to a change of meaning, at least in the UK in my experience, possibly because 'check' is used primarily as a verb rather than a noun.  Thus 'I'll take a rain-check on that' used to mean 'I'll definitely come back to that later', but is now used in the UK in the sense 'I'll see about that later referring to the circumstances pertaining since it's raining now and it might or might not be later on' - partial understanding of the original usage redifined by the legendary British weather. But definitely a case of one word being better than several (no main verb).

And just to point out again that while 'banerk' is a portmanteau word, strictly speaking 'portmanteau' is not. Watch the Marx Brothers film A Night in Casablanca to see a portmanteau in use. In fact, watch it anyway.

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