I am writing today to discuss with great sadness the imminent extinction of our dear friend, the Gerund. An event which while perhaps not signifying the end of the world as we know it, certainly sounds the death knell of refined civilization, and the rise of the great unwashed.
But, before we get started, does everybody know what a Gerund is? It’s a noun made out of a verb by adding “ing” to the end. “Run across the street right now.” “Running across the street just now for no apparent reason has me winded, sweaty and annoyed.”
I learned about the Gerund in Mrs. DeMarco’s fifth grade English class along with other crucial figures of speech like Litotes, Oxymoron, Hyperbole, Aphorism and Synecdoche to name a few. I’ve honestly forgotten what some of these are (well not anymore since I just looked them all up) but for some reason, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Gerund.
Which is why I’m so perturbed about our current situation.
Have you noticed that everybody from our President on down has been butchering our little friend by dropping the “g” from the end of the word? “I’ve been talkin’ with folks (the use of the word “folks” of course tends to signal an increase in Gerundicide) about the ‘conomy and hearin’ what they’re worryin’ about.”
Now, there is a time and a place to drop the g from the gerund. If you’re Li’l Abner. Otherwise, cut it out.
Seriously though I’m sure that this has become more and more prevalent with the rise of the Common Candidate, and the increasing condemnation of the intellectual elite. Our friend the Hockey Mom from Alaska may not have introduced the mass destruction of the Gerund, but certainly has a lot of gerund blood on her hands.
It’s all part and parcel of the assumption that candidates for office should be just like you and me – not some over-educated, refined, snobby, smart person. I have a pretty reasonable sense of self-esteem, but I’m telling you I want somebody smarter, better educated and wiser in the White House than you and me. (no offence).
So why do perfectly well-spoken Harvard grads resort to this linguistic tactic? Whether it’s on purpose or not, it’s clearly designed to help them “connect” with the voters and make them sound all down home, folksy (there’s that word again) instead of an ivy-educated person.
In fact, did you notice at the Democratic National Convention that Michelle Obama didn’t even mention that she went to Princeton and Harvard Law? Not that she should be bragging, but come on. Instead, I think the speechwriters were probably scared that trotting out her educational credentials would make her seem intimidating and not jes’ like you an’ me, I reckon.
So please, for the love of all that’s decent and good, please stop butchering the poor, defenseless gerund so that you can assuage the fear that you’ll appear too sophisticated for the electorate. Instead, raise the standard of discourse. Don’t assume that we’re all a bunch of knuckle-dragging hicks. Let us all aspire to something a little more noble, and make fifth grade teachers across the country proud.