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Please forgive me for reviving a mostly over thread, but I love this stuff:


I have to smile a bit when I see folks getting indignant about language and either 
new use for old words, new words, new forms of words, or any combination thereof. 
One reason English is used in more areas of the world than any other language is 
that it is readily adaptable, not only in its form, but also its many users 
*consider* it readily adaptable. Therefore, people are comfortable coining new 
words like *efforting*, even though I’d never heard of it and agree that it seems 
like a lazy person’s version of “struggling to achieve a solution regarding…”

And yet, as I write that, I hear a bit of English Teacher Snob coming through: am I 
therefore disparaging anyone who uses “bike” instead of bicycle, “car” instead of 
“automobile”? I don’t mean to; I personally would rather be clear rather than use 
“effort” as a gerund.


Language is social, political, powerful—on and on. Our *judgements* regarding use 
of language is what makes it such, and in my opinion we need to be very careful 
before we call anything “not a word” or “incorrect English” that we are not calling 
*those who use* such language “incorrect” or “not up to our standards.”


I don’t mean we can make up words; just because I call a 7 inch long quarter inch 
diameter Phillips screwdriver a “goop” because it’s shorter doesn’t mean that’s 
what it’s called. There *does* need to be agreement regarding word definition and 
usage in order to have a system of language. But dialect, jargon, idiom—all of the 
colorful aspects that make English interesting to me as a system of communication 
certainly *are* words…but they are not appropriate for all situations. If I used 
“efforting” at a business conference, I still wouldn’t use it when talking to my 


That to me is the key to the original posting of this question: is the use of 
“efforting” appropriate (whether a word or not, which I would say: sure, why not) 
in a school environment? To me, it depends whether students are intellectually 
capable of understanding that language is malleable to a point and has social, 
political, etc implications. First graders: do I use it? No way! High schoolers? 
Sure: but I’d also like to have a discussion with them regarding the word 
schadenfreude and whether English needs (or has) an equivalent: see I would also let them know “efforting” 
was a business term that I personally found to be lazy shorthand (like using 
‘stuff’), but I would encourage them to draw their own conclusions.


I think that Denise’s experience with her challenge to the correctness of the word 
really demonstrates how personally we take the words we use, and how we feel our 
language defines us. When we question anyone’s use of language, we question them 
personally…even when we do it jokingly. Sometimes people can’t or don’t get the 
joke, and *sometimes* people reveal (I don’t mean you, Denise, I mean people like 
Barbara Bush) their own limited understanding of other people’s lives and personal 
situations: “And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were 
underprivileged anyway, so this--this is working very well for them.” See: 

Ultimately, our use of language and our attitudes toward it can reveal quite a bit 
about us. 


Off the stump now.

"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social 
transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence 
of the good people."
--Martin Luther King
Brent Bradley, LMS at Valley View Community & Henry Wilson Memorial in Farmington, 
bsb underscore lib at yahoo dot com

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