Saturday, October 11, 2003


(This is a paper I wrote for my critical writing class...I enjoyed writing it, so I'm not going to waste it by only letting my teacher read it...plus I'm not posting anything else important so I might as well post something.)

I will own you at Scrabble. Sorry, perhaps I should clarify for those not up to date with the current “jive.” I will not only defeat you while playing Scrabble, I will win by so many points we will need to invent new numbers just to accommodate my ending score. I am that good. My roommate discovered my talent while attempting to defeat me one unproductive Wednesday night. Amidst the slaughter of my roommate, he put down a word that immediately caught my attention: “JAZZED.” Through some combination of “Double Letter Scores” and “Double Word Scores,” my roommate’s word accumulated an amazing fifty points.

While my roommate gloated over his lead-stealing word, I pondered to myself, “Is ‘JAZZED’ a real word or slang?” In Scrabble, anyone can contest a word placed on the board. The word is then researched in an up-to-date dictionary, and, if the word is found, it is allowed on the board. If it is not found, the word is removed. Fairly certain “JAZZED” was not a real word, I challenged my opponent’s pride and joy. To his surprise and my relief, “JAZZED” was not in the dictionary. My roommate became irate and quit the game, but he refused to believe “JAZZED” was not a real word. We asked several other people their opinion on the word, and, to my surprise, most agreed that it was indeed a real word.

What constitutes a “real” word? A real word can be found in a respectable dictionary, is accepted by at least a majority of the population, and follows grammatical law that can be applied to other real words. The word “JAZZED” was accepted by the majority of people I spoke with, but it violates the two remaining guidelines. It was not in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (11th Edition published in 2003), and it does not seem to follow any sensible rules.

When my roommate placed the now infamous word on the board, I asked him to use it in a sentence that defined the word. He responded, “The woman got all jazzed up before the fancy dance.” When I asked him to clarify, he informed me to be “jazzed up” is to dress nice and wear fancy jewelry, perfume, etc. Fair enough. I then proceeded to pick up the dictionary, open it, and place it on my head. He stared at me with a look of disbelief and asked what I was doing. “It’s obvious,” I replied. “I am getting ‘dictionaried’ up to go to my Critical Writing and Research class Friday!” His facial expression was priceless. It was a mixture of “Huh?” with a touch of “I wish I had a new roommate.”

Is my roommate allowed to throw an –ed on the end of a noun and expect an instant transformation from one part of speech to another? The suffix –ed, when added to jazz, mutates this once normal noun into an adverb. Would my modifification of the noun “computer” to “computered” be an acceptable transformation from noun to verb? (I did not type this essay, I computered it!) I must take into account the feelings of the nouns. What would the nouns think? A happy noun, let us say “door” for example, is minding its own business, content with being a person, place, or thing, when all of a sudden I, in my splendid human ignorance, decide it is the noun’s job to be more than just a noun. The noun must go above and beyond the call of duty to serve as a person, place, or thing and an action that, theoretically, could be done unto itself! “The door doored.” By creating this obscure new verb, I have distorted the meaning of my sentence. What exactly does it mean “to door?” To door could mean “to open,” or “to close,” or any other random expression having to do with doors.

American culture’s fondness of slang—due to lack of proper grammatical instruction—is complicating our already far too complex language. By relocating nouns from their current location to the land of verbs, adverbs, or adjectives, our culture is making communication between opposite ends of the country, different states, and, in some cases, different cities more and more difficult. Let us leave nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and other parts of speech in their own happy lands. Let these words live their lives, content with who they are or what they are doing. They need no help from American society in identifying themselves. On the contrary, our society needs these parts of speech to define who we are! But that is neither here nor there. Our society must maintain a certain amount of distinction between what is a verb, what is a noun, and what is a modifier.

But alas, in every society, even in the happy lands of nouns, verbs, and modifiers, there will be rebels, outlaws if you will, frequently crossing the border between Verbville and Noun Town. Bikers can bike on their bikes, lighters can light their light lights, and canners can can can-canning toucans if they can indeed be canned. But we must remember, these noun/verb/modifiers never stay in one town for long. They are outcasts, exiled from both worlds, destined to live a nomadic life. They are used and discarded, waiting for the next Joe Schmoe to put them randomly in a sentence, never knowing what their purpose in life will be next.

Let us not condemn the nouns, verbs, and modifiers that do know their place in society to this life of uncertainty and hardship the nomadic rebels face on a day-to-day basis. Our society must use words properly and with some amount of caution if we are to say what we mean and mean what we say. Our language, our country, and, most importantly, Scrabble depend on society’s proper use of words.

Only you can prevent forged modi-fires.

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