Watching what you –ate

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I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend lately in certain words. Strangely, the words in question are all similar in construction: they begin with con, and the irritating versions (two of which aren’t even real words) end in –ate.

The first example has appeared in the column before: condensate. Condensate is actually a word. It’s a noun referring to condensation. So the problem isn’t it’s not a real word. The problem is people try to use it as a verb: “The water condensates here.” Water doesn’t condensate; it condenses. Maybe the problem is people assume demonstration and condensation function in the same way. They’re wrong.

Our next example is gaining wider use on what seems like a daily basis. Conversate is not a word. It never has been, and I hope and pray it never will be. For some reason, though, a vast number of people have taken to lengthening the word converse. Perhaps they think because you can have a conversation, that means you are conversating. It doesn’t.

Finally – and this is a newcomer to the list – is a word my husband heard on Sports Talk Radio one morning a few weeks ago. I admit I don’t listen to very much Sports Talk Radio, so I don’t know the grammatical standards of such programs, but my spouse (who has become quite the grammar guru himself) nearly did a spit-take when he heard a paid personality use the nonexistent wordconstructuate instead of construct.

That one takes the cake.

The bottom line is you need to be careful when you try to add suffixes to words that don’t require them. None of these gaffes are old enough that people are likely to have grown up hearing and using the wrong word; these are relatively new misconstructions. Adding –ate doesn’t make you seem smarter or better spoken. It doesn’t sound more impressive. It sounds ridiculous.

So please, watch what you –ate.

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