Sympathists

On Intentionality and Beerage: Collected Comments

In Life as Lived on May 20, 2009 at 10:22 pm

award-winning-beers-afM. Standfast, Kyoto

Editor’s Note: Below I have collected the full series of wonderful comments that have coalesced around the subject of language usage, especially the terms “intentionality” and “beerage.”  The whole issues kicked off with my comment on the post “Collected Rants;” this comment concerned the term “intentionality” and went from there. I will post the comments in the order they came in, and also set some context for the discussion.

On 5/14/2009 the regional manager for the IB Diploma Program(me) visited my school and gently teased me about my reliance on the word “intentionality,” as in “we have moved with intentionality to incorporate the IB learner profile into our curricular planning.” An Australian, he said “‘intentionality, that sounds like an Americanism to me. You Americans can make any noun into a verb.” So, the gauntlet was laid down. Here’s what transpired:
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Do you, perchance, mean “tweet” instead of twit? I’m on Twitter, as is TC, where “tweet” is both a noun and a verb, naturally. IB visit today, where I was gently teased by the IB rep for my use of the word “intentionality”–he said that Americans can make any noun into a verb–but of course “intentionality” is a noun made from an adjective, so I continued to use it throughout the day…

Matthew

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By sheer coincidence ( I swear) “twit” slipped out when typing “twitTER”. Thats not to say I see much more value in it than I do facebook.  Oh, and my kiwi version of intentionality would be intentionage. There isn’t a word alive you cant add -age to.

D. Hannah

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E.B. White warns against– no more how tempting it may be– adding ‘ize’ to make a noun a verb. It is an American thing no doubt: utilize instead of use; burglarize instead of burgle; finalize instead of make final; microwaverize instead of microwave (ok, we haven’t gone there yet, but we did make microwave into a verb).

J. Innes

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I’m a confirmed izeer, ityer, and isher, sometimes ironically, other times sincerely. What would Mr. White have to say about the difference between “to proceed intentionally” and “to proceed with intentionality”?

Matthew

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M. Thomas,

I love you with all my heart. I can’t get behind intentionality. It reminds me too much of sophomore year in high school when we verbed and shortened everything. Wave it, I will now deskerize, let’s lawn it, “what are you doing?” “senior lounging”. It’s worse now. The kids don’t know nouns from verbs.

J. Innes

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Oh baby–I’m so fully behind an utterance like “let’s lawn it.” Come now, come now–human creativity at its best.

Matthew

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It seems to me that if a new word cant be converted into an unlikely part of speech it will fail to make the grade. That’s what makes “google” a classic. And “fuck”.
I need some beergae.

D. Hannah

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Matthew, to get back to your original question– “to proceed intentionally” vs. “to proceed with intentionality– I’m pretty sure Mr. White would adhere to his beloved principle #17 Omit Needless Words; therefore, he’d pick the first out of frugality. I suppose I should listen to you and lighten up– ‘let’s lawn it’ is pretty darn good and something I can hear myself saying. I guess I was just thinking of the children and my witnessing daily their assault upon an already chaotic language.

J. Innes

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The problem, it seems to me, is confining the invention of coining new words to those with the intellectual capability to do so. “Let’s lawn it” is excellent…descriptive, economical, and attractive–it truly describes an activity in a clear, sensible fashion. “Signage,” for example, however, is worthless…not only is longer than “signs,” it doesn’t describe anything more or less than “signs” does. Add of course, JI, what our students do with the language is horrifying…they, with the exception of Mr. Lyon, of course, have no business coining anything (though there was a middle-schooler who was caught trying to put counterfeit money into the vending machine this year, but that’s a different kind of coining)…

PKT

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Aha, a high-elitist argument from PA, but one which holds a certain amount of force. So what you’re saying is that if coining is done with intentionality, it’s ok–if it’s done through rhetorical or mental laziness, it’s not? Answers.com defines “signage” as “Signs considered as a group.” So random signs in proximity might still be “signs,” whereas 3 signs pointing to way to the Holiday Inn might be “signage.”

Matthew

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I almost wrote a follow-up comment semi-apologizing for the arrogance contained in comment one, but decided to bag it…while still not sure about the word intentionality, that’s not what really defines a “good” new word (or use of word) for me. I like new uses that are efficient and not offensive to the eye or ear (a subjective definition, I know). I think that “let’s lawn it” does something new and saves words…it replaces “let’s go out on the lawn,” or perhaps even “let’s hit the lawn.” We’ve saved words and we have a charming new use of a word. Considering signage, though…I think we have a word for “signs considered as a group”…I think it’s “signs.” I don’t think the phrase “Holiday Inn signage” does anything for us that “Holiday Inn signs” doesn’t…and it sounds worse, IMHO (or perhaps, given my “high-elitist” tendencies, IMNSHO).

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Gentlemen, I find this all very interesting, so much so that I devoted about 25 minutes to it with my sophomores yesterday. Upon presenting “let’s lawn it” to the group, I found the intelligent core loving the phrase, the dullards had to be explained what a lawn was, its part of speech, and what might conceivably do on the lawn (more on this later). I’m with Pat– perhaps even in being an elitist or semi-elitist– that there should be a good reason for the advent of the new word. Take the word moisture for example. In breaking with Mr. White’s rule, we’ve embraced the idea of the noun-to-verb advent of ‘moisturize’ and taken it a step further in re-nouning it (if you will) by adding the -er to make moisturizer (something that might add moisture to something else). Following this same formula with another word, take terror for instance, and the formula reveals feebleness: terror to terrorize to terrorizer. We have a word for terrorizer, it’s terrorist (a savings of one letter and it sounds better).

To get back to “let’s lawn it”, it was pointed out by one of my intellectual students that although “lawning it” is creative, frugal, and fun, it’s not entirely precise. Are we playing croquet? Throwing lawn darts? Sitting on blankets in a circle? Looking for worms? I agreed there was a precision problem, but that it most likely meant ‘heading out to the manicured grassy area for some unspecified grassy area activity. Upon seeing this dilemma, however, what I determined was that “let’s lawn it” is dangerous in the wrong hands (chiefly those that don’t know a noun from a verb or what a lawn is, which, sadly, was a portion of my private-school studentry). I think this is, at least in part, in agreement with Pat’s argument.

(Because I love burgers, I tried to make an argument for burgerize and burgerizer, but was shot down by a resounding 98%.)

J. Innes

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The adverb ‘intentionally’ adds information to the verb ‘proceed’ describing how we proceed (in general adverbs add info to the verb phrase).

‘Intentionality’ the noun complement adds information to the subject – describing what MT proceeds with. It doesn’t attribute the intention to anything – he is not intending to proceed, He is proceeding intending to do something – something unknown, although probably assumed by the IB rep (at his peril).

This subtle distinction of meaning is actually more precise in its way, allowing for a myriad of unspoken communication while leaving an out for both parties – “oh, I thought you meant…”.

It seems to me MT has learnt a little during his time in Japan.

D. Hannah

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While skipping for the moment the question of intentionality, I go back to the newly-minted “beerage.” I think, taking MT’s definition of signage, that beerage is valid–as a group of linked beers, it is distinct from the word beers. I had two friends in college who would go to the bar for “a beer.” As long as their glasses remained more than half-full, they were still having “a beer,” even if they had, in reality, consumed countless pitchers. I think this was in fact not “a beer,” but nor was it beers; it was beerage–a group of linked beers, or in this case, one never-ending beer.

PKT

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The great thing about this string of comments is that it gets better as it goes, with the last two being the best of the bunch.  D. Hannah writes that “‘Intentionality’ the noun complement adds information to the subject – describing what MT proceeds with. It doesn’t attribute the intention to anything – he is not intending to proceed, He is proceeding intending to do something” and this is exactly right; for me, to proceed with “intentionality” means something quite different than to proceed intentionally.  To proceed intentionally simply implies doing something with free will, on purpose.  To proceed with intentionality implies a strategy–that a specific goal is being sought through a specific course of action.  The tangential, unstated, implication of intentionality is that if a certain strategy, a certain approach to a problem, fails to deliver the desired result, the whole matter can be re-considered, and, with intentionality, re-framed.  In other words, an approach based in intentionality is a practical approach, one which accepts that the ends may well justify, nay, erase and override, the means.

As for “beerage”–I love how D. Hannah’s offhand comment led to PKT’s brilliantly discursive hair-splitting on the difference between “beer,” “beers,” and “beerage.”  Beerage=”a group of linked beers,” this is one of my favorite moments in the long history of Sympathies, and based on my not inconsiderable knowledge of Mr. Hannah, I would venture to say that he is not unfamiliar with “beerage” as so defined.  Which is all a very roundabout way of saying “we miss you, baby blue.

Image Credit: “http://www.arizonafoothillsmagazine.com/valleygirlblog/wp-content/uploads/award-winning-beers-af.jpg

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  1. Mr. Pat, sir…I don’t recall the poker of last year as a matter of fact, and all of my best memories are hazy.

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