The vague use of ‘thing’
Wednesday 21 December 2011
by Ken Paterson
In writing ‘A Handbook of Spoken Grammar’ (follow the links ‘Titles’ and ‘Language Practice’ on the DELTA website for details), we wanted to include some key aspects of ‘vague language’ (e.g. ‘sort of’, ‘a couple of’, ‘a bit of’ etc.).
The word ‘thing’ (and ‘thingy’, ‘thingamajig’, and ‘thingummy’) has a number of
– There was a thing at work today.
(An argument? A farewell party? A big announcement?)
– I’ve got this thing on my shoulder.
(An insect bite? A bruise?)
– Have you seen my sports things?
– Did you send thingy a birthday card?
(It might sound rude to use ‘thing’ for a person here, but people will often say ‘You poor/brave thing!’)
– Shall we see how things develop?
– I haven’t got a thing to wear.
In the unit on ‘thing’, we try to work out some rules for its use, and we’ve
written some practice exercises, and recorded some dialogues. But here’s a
question for you:
Would you say all of these? What’s the difference in meaning?
They’re rich. They’ve got a yacht and everything.
They’re rich. They’ve got a yacht and things.
They’re a couple now. They’re in love and everything.
They’re a couple now. They’re in love and things.
Next time: exaggerated language.
If you’re about to celebrate, have an absolutely fantastic Christmas!
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