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Google+ Grammar

posted: 7.19.11 by Traci Gardner

5920040910_242ec1dd3c_mWhen grammar, spelling, and punctuation make their way into the news, I like to ask students to think about the conversation and add their opinions to the mix. This encourages critical thinking about how language works, while connecting to current events in ways that keep students interested. Google’s rules for spelling in the Google+ Project are perfect for this kind of classroom discussion.

Google explains in their announcement that “+1” is both a verb and a noun, and then provides examples of how to create the plural form of that noun and the past tense and participial forms of that verb. In case you’re wondering, that’s +1’s, +1’d, and +1’ing, respectively. Google explains their choices in more detail in the post and even includes example sentences that show the word forms in use.

You may not agree with Google’s position, and if that’s the case you won’t be alone. You’ll find similar disapproval in these articles:

You will also find some folks in support of Google’s choices. The best piece is How to spell +1′d (or is it +1ed?) from Motivated Grammar. The author, Gabe Doyle, a graduate student in Linguistics, provides examples of other uses of apostrophes in word forms and reminds us that “Language is what people do with it.”

Once students have read all these pieces, I would ask them to consider some related questions, such as:

  • Is +1 a word? What makes a word a word?
  • Is this discussion of +1’s, +1’d, and +1’ing about grammar, spelling, and/or punctuation? Look at how those articles talk about the words to help inform your decision.
  • How does the name Google+ work with other kinds of punctuation? For instance, what happens when you end a sentence with the word Google+? Are more specialized rules needed for the site’s name?
  • What about the other features on the site? There are Circles, Streams, Hangout, Huddle, and Sparks. Are they nouns, verbs, or both? How is Google using those words on the site? Does the article “Do you ‘Google?’” change your answer?
  • What’s your position on +1’s, +1’d, and +1’ing? Would you use the words when speaking or in your writing?

Whether you +1 this post or not, it’s likely that Google+ is going to make changes to the ways that we speak and write. Do you think +1’s, +1’d, and +1’ing will be language changes that stick?

Remember that in January 2004, you would have looked at me strangely if I said I was going to “friend” or “unfriend” you, and in June 2006, if I said I was going to follow you, you probably would have called me a stalker. Will we look back and smile at the fact that we even talked about the words +1’s, +1’d, and +1’ing in seven or eight years? Tell me what you think in the comments.

[Photo: Google Plus by west.m, on Flickr]

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Teaching with Technology
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4 Responses to “Google+ Grammar”

  1. Jack Solomon Says:

    As I teach my popular culture classes, the flaw in Max Horkheimer’s and Theodor Adorno’s classic critique of the American culture industry is that they accuse it of essentially political motivations, when in actuality the motivations are purely economic. Thus, while Horkheimer and Adorno’s connection of the culture industry to fascism was accurate for Nazi Germany, it has not applied to the United States. In a similar vein, George Orwell’s classic analysis of “The Politics of the English Language” may have applied to Soviet totalitarianism but does not apply to the way that American popular culture continues to turn the English language into a kind of shorthand. The effect of such changes as Google’s is to facilitate the triumph of text messaging, a very profitable activity for the industries that facilitate it.

    In short, Google, as a part of the postmodern culture industry, has simply found another way to conduct its business.

  2. Sessional Girl Says:

    Thank you – excellent lesson to be put together from this one (srsly, I think I’ll use it for Friday’s class). What I appreciate about this exercise is that I know my international students will be just as able to access opinions on the questions, and that is a huge challenge at times.

    It also ties in nicely with what we were just covering today – the evolution of grammar and language. I had some of them interested, but I know a number of the students found it out of sync with what they discuss/think about in their daily lives. This could be the bridge needed for those students.

  3. Traci Gardner Says:

    Sessional Girl — How did the lesson go? I’d love to hear what students thought about the issue and whether you have any suggestions to improve the activity!

  4. Traci Gardner Says:

    Jack — Your observation that Google is adopting the language of text messages is key. I’ve read several reports about teens and the use of text messages. Most conclude that teens would rather text than use email or IMs. Google+ may be working on that middle ground where those extremely comfortable with text messages want to take up an online presence. If, as I suggested in my previous post about teaching with Google+, the site is going to be the gateway for Blogger, Google Docs, and more, the comfort of those text messengers is imperative.

    Thanks for noting the “text message” nature of Google’s new rules. I’m now looking for other ways that they are integrating text messaging in their practices on the site.