May 17, 2012

Chunge Happens!

written by Michael Launer

No, that’s not a misprint. If you ask our 15-year-old grandson Jacob, “chunge” does happen in language all the time.

When Jacob was four - in response to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” - he answered, “A studier of words.” And so he has become. He’s also a pretty good tennis player.

When he was nine, Jake asked his grandparents (us) if we could take him on a vacation “without Mom and Dad.” We said, “If they will let us, we’ll take you when you are 13. Where would you like to go?” It took him a couple of years, but finally he decided: Italy and Greece.

And so we went. With Jake’s assistance we developed a wonderful itinerary that showed him the glories of ancient and Renaissance culture in both countries, as well as modern day life. Along the way we talked a lot about the history of rhetoric and the development of Western languages, starting with Indo-European, and how modern English had resulted from an amalgam of so many different influences. Not every 13-year-old would find this interesting, but Jacob was fascinated. He has always been interested in word play. One afternoon, over his favorite lunch of lasagna and Caprese salad, Jake declared with a laugh that “Chunge Happens.” And so it does.

We were reminded of this fact just the other day. Reading The New York Times of 24 April we came upon an article on page one of the Business section. Written by one Nick Wingfield, the article is entitled, “$550 Million Patent Pact for Facebook and Microsoft.” Mr. Wingfield describes how these two giants of the modern age are joining forces to combat the growing influence of Google.

A fairly long article, it is continued on the second page, where one encounters the following direct quote attributed to a prominent market analyst:

“Microsoft is simply less concerned about the threat of social to its business than Google is.”

Seriously? Exactly when did <social> become a noun? For surely it functions as a noun in this quotation. This is the first time that either of us had encountered such a usage, which we discussed for a few minutes over our morning coffee that day.

Turns out, Jacob is exactly correct: CHUNGE DOES INDEED HAPPEN. And right before our very ears.

In case you need to be convinced, type <Facebook> into an MS Word document. Nearly everyone on this planet knows what Facebook is, but the Microsoft dictionary (at least in its XP Professional version) doesn’t - it wants to correct this name to two words, <face book>. Still not convinced, then google it!

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