Barbarisms

A barbarism is either a nonexistent word or an existing one used ungrammatically. Inventing new words is not necessarily a fault; imaginative writers create they are called. But a genuine neologism fills a need. When an invented word is merely an ungrammatical form of a term already in the language, it serves no purpose and is a barbarism:

She's always been a dutifulled daughter. (For dutiful)

Barbarisms are often spawned by confusion about suffixes, those endings which extend the meaning or alter the grammatical function of words—for example, as when -ness turns the adjective polite into the nounpoliteness.

Sometimes a barbarism is the result of adding a second, unnecessary suffix to a word to restore it to what it was in the first place:

He has great ambitiousness. (For ambition)

The story contains a great deal of satiricalness. (For satire)

Aside from nonexistent words, barbarisms also include legitimate ones used ungrammatically. Confusion of sound or appearance often causes this error:

Garbage is also used to fill holes were houses are to be built. (For where)

The average man is not conscience of his wasteful behavior. (For conscious)

I should of gone. (For should've) A women stood on the corner. (For woman)

The chances of confusion are even greater with homonyms, different words pronounced the same (and sometimes spelled alike as well): bear ("carry"), bear ("animal"), and bare ("naked"). Especially prone to misuse are the forms there (adverb), their (possessive pronoun), and they're (contraction of they are); and to (preposition), too (adverb), and two (adjective).

Legitimate words may become barbarisms when misused in grammatical shifts. As we'll see in the next chapter, grammatical shifts can be valuable in writing. (It means changing the normal grammatical function of a word, turning a noun, for example, into a verb, as in "The car nosed down the street.") But if it serves no valid purpose, such a shift is simply a barbarism:

Our strive for greatness is one of our best qualities. (For striving) They made their deciding. (For decision)

Awkward shifts are common with adjectives and adverbs. Usually the problem is leaving off a necessary-Zj:

She dances beautiful. (For beautifully) They did it satisfactory. (For satisfactorily)

A rough rule is that adverbs of three or more syllables end and that those having one or two syllables are rather idiomatic: some always end (deadly), others never do (welt), and still others may be used either way (slow or slowly, quick or quickly).

On the fringe of barbarism are many trendy words such as finalize and adverbs ending in-wise such as weatherwise, wise, economywise. There seems little for a word like finalize, which says nothing that complete or finish does not say. On the other hand, one can argue that weatherwise is at least more concise than the phrase in regard to the weather. One's tolerance for such terms depends on how liberal or conservative one is with regard to language (or languagewise).

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