I’m not losing my mind (well, I may be, but that’s beside the point) but I need a clever way to talk about the suffixes “ate” and “ant”.
Here, briefly, are Merriam-Webster’s definitions.
1 a: one that performs (a specified action) : personal or impersonal agent
b: thing that promotes (a specified action or process)
2: one connected with
3: thing acted upon (in a specified manner)
: act on (in a specified way)
: cause to be modified or affected by : cause to become : furnish with
I bring up the two similar suffixes because of two equally perplexing constructs I’ve encountered this week: “conversate” and “medicant”.
The fist, “conversate”, comes directly from a reality show competition on HGTV. Whereas I would have simply said “converse” or even “talk” one of the gentleman involved in the contest chose to say “conversate”, but why?
Even as I’m typing out this post, Firefox is angrily underlining “conversate” and insisting I change it to “conversation”, “conversant” (we’ll hold off on that one) or “converse”.
Maybe he thought “conversate” sounded more formal or that it related to some subset of normal conversation or that it described a specific act of conversing in some altered state.
I really have no idea except to say that it sounded incredibly forced and just plain wrong to me ear.
The only other time I can remember someone appending such a regular construct on to a word to get some grand new chimera was the use of the verb “orientate” as a stand-in for “orient”, “instruct” or “guide”. I think part of the problem here stemmed from the fact that I was an “Orientation Leader” at UGA. Since I held the title “Orientation Leader” my job must have been “orientating” or “to orientate”, right?
It was frustrating and grating to hear, but language can be like sandpaper now and again and I became deaf to that word by Summer’s end. Hearing “conversate” on TV brought it all back to my consciousness in a rush of memories (good AND bad) that compelled me to mention it here.
The second new word I heard this week comes from my wife, who wondered aloud if “medicant” could be an acceptable form of what most of us currently use, “medication”. Her touchpoint was irritate/irritation/irritant and so I gave her props and fired up my browser.
Merriam-Webster (again) agrees; medicant:
: a medicinal substance
So, not exactly “medicine” or “medication” but any medical substance, it would seem. Maybe a bandage or a topical ointment?
I’m not really clear as to why certain noun forms rate “-ants” or certain verb forms deserve “-ates”, I just now that my daughter says “Aten” sometimes when she means “Eaten” or “Ate” (depends) which is, itself, another blog post.
Until next time, ponder “ants”, “ates” and the word “conversant“.