Getting to the Root of the Problem


Not long ago, Daily Writing Tips answered the question: “Is Inferencing a Word?” I could tell Maeve Maddox cringed as deeply as I did when she looked it up and discovered it in the psycholinguistic lexicon. Guess what it means?


Long time ago, when written communication occurred through a magical machine called the IBM Selectric III, I typed term papers and such for other students as a means to make money. One of my clients was a grad student. I gained much of my experience in editing through typing his papers. I told him once–because I have a smart-alecky mouth, big enough to shove a foot or two into–that at his level of education, he should know basic things like spelling and sentence construction. You know how he responded?

“I’ll have a secretary for that.”

Wait, let me get this straight–a dude with an advanced degree is going to trust his correspondence issues to someone who likely has only a high school diploma?

I thought it was insane then; I think it’s insane now.

But it proves my theory: educated people are not as smart as they like to think they are. Some of the most basic things pertaining to grammar and the English language, which they should’ve learned before graduating high school, apparently never registered with them. That’s why there’s a whole group of folks involved in “psycholinguistics” who don’t know that the root word of inference is infer. Instead of sticking the “-ing” ending on the root word, which is a verb and where the suffix belongs to create the present participle, they stuck it on the noun. And inferencing is born.

This isn’t limited just to so-called “educated” people. There is something about using a whole lotta syllables that apparently makes one appear intelligent, which is why I’ve heard “conversating” coming out of the mouths of litigants on TV court shows (yes, I watch them sometimes; it’s a guilty pleasure). Conversation is the noun, converse is the verb, conversating doesn’t exist. Or at least, it shouldn’t.

I’ve noticed multiple examples of this in our culture, and I just shake my head. Whatcha gonna do? I mean, seriously, think about it: we as authors are blasted for using “alright” because it’s not a word–not yet, anyway–but if we were staying true to form in some novel where a psycholinguist was the hero, we’d get away with using inferencing because it is a word.

Kids, we just entered the Twilight Zone.

About Linda W. Yezak

Author/Freelance Editor/Speaker (writing and editing topics).
This entry was posted in write tips, Writing, Writing Tips and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Getting to the Root of the Problem

  1. Gay Ingram says:

    The madness of it all – our English language is in a constant state of change.


  2. It drives me nuts too. I have a hard enough time just trying to remember the traditional spelling. It has always been a struggle for me and I really have to work at it. Thank goodness we have many helpful tools, and people like you who are gracious enough to help those of us who are spelling challenged, among other things. 😊


    • I think I’m weird. Whenever I hear something mispronounced, I want to correct the speaker. When someone’s grammar is rough, I have to bite my tongue. And when new words are invented out of–for lack of a better word–*ignorance* of the language, I have to write posts about it.

      Yes. I think I’m weird.

      Liked by 1 person

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