The language curmudgeon . . .
I'm not gonna unless I gotta!
© Information Disciplines, Inc., Chicago—2 November 2009
NOTE: This document may be circulated or quoted
from freely, as long as the copyright credit is included.
Professional journals and textbooks are drastically increasing their use of certain non-words
intended to indicate an informal verbal construction. They include:
- gonna—going to
- wanna—want to
- gotta—must; got to
The pronunciation of the final syllable, whether it stands for to or have, is the
so-called "neutral vowel" in English or "schwa"in the international phonetic alphabet, sometimes rendered "uh" in older dictionaries.|
One well-regarded textbook by a major methodology expert observed that:
"Sometimes a programmer's gotta do what a programmer's gotta do!"
So, what's wrong with using those words in a professional publication? Three things:
Are there any situations in which those words contribute a useful shade of meaning?
Let me know.
- First, the words are unnecessary. They serve no useful function. The space saving
over the orthodox forms is insignificant. What's wrong with standard English?
- Second, they confuse readers whose first language isn't English. English is already
one of the most difficult European languages to learn. Why make it even harder with
another illogical idiom?
- Finally, they suggest a pattern that invites further extension: Attaching a to
any word and eliding or doubling a consonant just means "to" or "have":
Any native English speaker will understand what's meant, but should that be our only criterion?
- I wouldn'ta done it if you hadn'ta made me!
- Do you wishta be served?
- To be or notta be.
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Last modified 3 November 2009