Submitted by dwaynect • January 16, 2010
Is conversate a word? Many people use it and some people claim it’s not a word but I found it on online dictionaries.
January 17, 2010, 10:13pm
No. The proper word is "converse". "Conversate" is considered a slang word, If I'm not mistaken.
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January 17, 2010, 11:09pm
It is unsurprising that "conversate" is found in online dictionaries. In my experience, most online dictionaries, Merriam-Webster's included, are descriptive rather than prescriptive. (In fact, most modern paper dictionaries are descriptive. Some say it started when Webster's Third included the word "ain't," loosing the hounds of criticism from the prescriptive crowd.) Some dictionaries include caveats for disputed words like "ain't" or "irregardless." In the case of "conversate," Merriam-Webster Online simply calls it a "back-formation from 'conversation' " without further comment. Merriam-Webster Online dates "conversate" to 1973. This doesn't mean that it originated then, that's merely the earliest written example they could find of it. It likely was in spoken use before that; it may be regional or dialectical, or even slang. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage has no entry for it, which suggests that it is not common. I have never heard or read it.
My own opinion is that "conversate" is unneeded, since we already have "converse," and I wouldn't use it. Many consider it improper, and they have a strong case; it is at best nonstandard. But I also wouldn't get upset with those who do. If you don't like it, don't use it. Just don't make a fuss about it. Unlike, say, cancer, words may wither away if they are ignored, and unused. Who can say where "irregardless" would be if it hadn't made every words-I-hate-most list for the past seventy years?
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January 22, 2010, 4:31pm
As a student of linguistics I've never been a language purist, I believe that if people use a word and others accept it is a word regardless of whether or not the language police accept it, or even put it in a dictionary.
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January 25, 2010, 3:59am
Adrian is even more a descriptivist than me. Which I applaud. Perhaps one day I will catch up.
Meantime, here is an interesting take on the state of the dictionary:
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February 2, 2010, 11:41am
I agree with Adrian. I see nothing wrong with letting "conversate" become a word, whether language purists accept it or not. It may very well die out in 20 years, or it could become standard.
I mean, there are plenty of back-formations in standard English nowadays. In America, for example, people tend to use "orient" for the verbal counterpart of "orientation." Yet, in Britain and the Commonwealths, people often use the back-formation "orientate." There's no reason for them to do this, since "orient" already existed to begin with, but "orientate" exists nonetheless. And it's now so common, it's unremarkable.
I hope this helps.
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February 3, 2010, 11:16am
Vatta, I would suggest that comparing to "orientate" doesn't really help. Regarding "...it’s now so common, it’s unremarkable..." I would disagree. I realize that some sources do not object to "orientate", but some do as well. No sources object to "orient". I'm not saying that "orientate" is right or wrong, I'm simply pointing out that it's use is more controversial. Personally, I don't use it.
"Conversate" is not as widely accepted. It is considered slang by most, at least for now.
Actually, I think it would be fun to use "conversate" as a noun. Compare it to precipitate / precipitation. Precipitation can refer to the act of pricipitating and can also refer to the stuff itself that's precipitating (e.g., rain, chemicals falling out of solution, etc.). Precipitate as a noun means, specifically, only the stuff itself (the actual raindrops, the resultant chemicals, etc.). I say we should use "conversation" to mean that act of talking, and "conversate", as a noun, to mean the actual words or sentences, something like "HIs conversate was particularly well chosen." As a noun, it could be pronounced con-ver-sayt, or con-ver-sit, just like precipitate.
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February 26, 2010, 11:36am
porsche, regarding "orientate", in England, it is not even "controversial"; it's probably the norm, and is certainly, as Vatta says, utterly unremarkable. Your sidewalk has a curb and my pavement has a kerb; each is correct in one country and odd in the other.
March 1, 2010, 11:22am
Cecily, perhaps I wasn't clear or you may have misunderstood. Orientate might be unremarkable in the UK, but that wasn't my point. Orientate is not unremarkable everywhere. Orient is.
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March 1, 2010, 7:03pm
A little history of "orientate."
"Orient" was borrowed from French around 1740. As a verb, originally it meant " to cause to face or point toward the east; specifically: to build (a church or temple) with the longitudinal axis pointing eastward and the chief altar at the eastern end" (Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary). Over time–and not much time–it came to mean "to set or arrange in any determinate position especially in relation to the points of the compass" (M-W again). I doubt that in the century or so before the emergence of "orientate" the ecclesiastical connotation was entirely lost.
And "orientate" did emerge. M-W Online dates it to 1848. It is likely a back-formation from "orientation," which M-W puts at 1839. Objection to "orientate," according to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, began in 1945. I suspect that interaction between Yanks and Brits during WWII may have been the cause.
M-W lists and then summarily dismisses all criticisms of "orientate" but one: it is longer than "orient" by a syllable. And to this quibble they give short shrift. They cite several authors, most British, who have used "orientate," including W. H. Auden, Aldous Huxley, Tennessee Williams, and one Robert Morely, who probably thought he was being clever when he wrote: "I don't want to suggest that Chinamen are less aesthetically orientated than I." (He wrote that as recently as 1974, making him a grammatically-challenged troglodyte.)
So while "orientate" may be "not unremarkable everywhere" (a pretty phrase), it is well established and not incorrect.
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April 19, 2010, 6:52pm
Adrian, funny how you're a linguistics student making comments about language, being that you formulate run-on sentences and, beyond that, managed to leave said sentence incomplete. Got a laugh out of that. Just saying. Lol.
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April 30, 2010, 4:01am
Me, Adrian claimed to be a student of linguistics, not of grammatology. Give them a break. ;)
April 30, 2010, 10:46am
Lisa, a study of grammatology isn't required to use proper grammar. Only of study of grammar is, and a basic one at that.
July 17, 2010, 10:45am
"Conversate" is an awkward word. It sounds contrived. I think we already have this area covered with converse and conversation. Another code word by people who like to think of themselves as "cool"...
I read the following from the Online Etymology Dictionary, "by 2000, apparently a back-formation from conversation or an elaboration of converse. According to some, from black Amer.Eng."
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July 18, 2010, 9:56am
orient is where Chinese people come from.
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November 5, 2010, 12:50am
'Conversate' sounds to me like it should mean 'one who is conversational', a chatty or charming person: "He was conversate and entertaining at dinner, a most erudite fellow."
But then I only encountered the word for the first time today in a list of detested office-speak, googled it and now I'm here.
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November 7, 2010, 10:34pm
conversate -- Interesting; I thought it meant the act of conversation, sort of a noun; but looked it up to be sure. It is a word I hear often, but never used myself and started to use it in a letter and wanted to make sure I was using it correctly and came across this site. I guess it is like: irregardless; nauseous; worser; complimentary and complementary; acute and chronic; alternative and alternate; flout and flaunt; dissect and bisect; hung and hanged; peruse; and various other terms that are understood between English speaking people in context and stay confused with regards to their correct usage. I think I had better be safe and not use "conversate" in my letter.
November 16, 2010, 8:06pm
searching for an answer and find none - I guess it's like aint which is now a wordlanguage changes - speaking of which I sure would like to get the new unabridged cheaply. My paper dictionary is a few years old. I picked it up at a university but recently I haven't seen any unabridged. barnes and nobel is overpriced and doesn't even have what I wantneither does amazon.
November 30, 2010, 1:59am
Yes "conversate" is a word. This is not the debate. The issue is whether it is proper English or slang. If dictionaries describe it with adjectives such as "slang", "ignorant", or "uneducated", and the population accepts these associations, then those who use it risks being seen the same. I fear that acceptance of slang as proper grammar undermines the user in at least one crucial arena: the potential for upward mobility. But then that is JMHO!
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November 30, 2010, 2:01am
Why I still need a grammar check: "...those who use it risk being seen..."
December 1, 2010, 1:37am
@ me @ April 19, 2010 at 6:52 pm:
It's even funnier that every one of your four sentences is incomplete.
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January 29, 2011, 6:04pm
I guess it's not a word, but most of our words now didn't used to be words. Words and metaphors get added to languages everyday because languages are living. IMO, language purists etc need to calm down, get over themselves, and accept it.
haha and I didn't think Adrian's sentence was a run on at all.
February 14, 2011, 5:29pm
@ Moron DetectorWhat is even funnier is that is seems you missed the sarcasm in that post... or maybe I've missed it in yours. C'est la vie.
As for using conversate... use it. Don't use it. The prior makes you look unintelligent. The latter doesn't make you look smart, but it doesn't make you look stupid either. The only time I could see using it would be as a joke or to make something rhyme in a poem or song... or maybe both. :)
using conversate totry and bait youjust you wait toretaliate youcan't berate whocan educate youand irritate toobefore it's too late toit's half past eight foo'
Marshall Mathers, eat your heart out.
February 18, 2011, 11:16pm
Several things bother me, and I WILL say whats wrong or right, don't be so lily livered!! Conversate is something ignorant people ONLY say, and I mean really stupid people, I will NEVER USE IT. Converse, conversation okay?? People I know LAUGH when they see people on Judge Judy using that word, and the only time I EVER hear it is on some stupid show like that.Orientate (BLAGH !!!) Are we going to change the word jewelry to 'bling' now that it is so commonly used. MY ULTIMATE PET PEEVE. The misuse of the word MYSELF and the abandonment of the words YOU and I because people think it sounds sophisticated and are also too stupid to figure out which word is correct, Me or I .... If someone asks me 'who went to the store' I might say ' I went by myself ' (not sure why though) But no way am I going to say MYSELF as a response.
February 19, 2011, 9:12am
I would not use the word "conversate," (mainly because the "-ate" is redundant), but I would not judge someone who does as stupid or sloppy or pretentious. People are different, and we need to learn to live with that. Let the person who is without sin cast the first stone.
March 2, 2011, 5:08am
Let me conversateBetter yet regulate
Yall ain't got no life... A word purist? Are you freaking kidding me... That's how low your life is? Wah wah wah i will not use it... Yall are ignorant. GET A LIFE PEOPLE & STOP MAKING IT TO BE MORE THAN IT IS!!! Yall acting like it's the end of the world if someone uses the word "Conversate"
Let me use it in a sentence for yall so yall know what it is and means:
We need to "conversate" so we can clear the air between this miscommunication.
I was just "conversating" with the homie around the corner.
To have a conversation with someone(s)
March 4, 2011, 7:45am
After all a word became or becomes a word via the utterance of and by its subsequent usage wether common or not. If its meaning is understood and indeed conveyed the message, by definition it is a word.
March 4, 2011, 7:38pm
When someone claims it isn't a word, they mean it's not a proper word, much like irregardless is not a proper word. And yet, irregardless is now included in most dictionaries with the disclaimer that it is a word that, due to repeated misuse, has now been acknowledged to mean "without regard" even though it literally means "without without regard." Double negative anyone?
Conversate is a slang word. Is it a word? Sure. It's slang for converse. It's unnecessary, and makes you sound like you don't know how to speak, but that doesn't mean it's not a word, only a slang word.
May 2, 2011, 8:13am
and what about "conversating"?the use of this word is more frequent nowadays, ..im not a language student,i dont study language like you all do..but from my point of view, this word means talking+socialising..which is way better than just talking or socialising used on its own..i think 'conversating' will replace 'talking' soon.. =)
May 11, 2011, 2:13pm
Ain't has actually been a word since before the 17th century (and used to be considered a proper contraction until the elite decided it wasn't.)Although I hate the word conversate with enough usage not only does it become descriptive, eventually it becomes proper English.Language is an ever-evolving thing.
May 12, 2011, 10:58am
conversate is not a word, either you're in a conversation or you're conversing not conversating
May 15, 2011, 12:28am
Those who know me know that this is the word which irritates me like no other. For this reason, I was was very excited when I stumbled across this site while doing research for an unrelated topic. Some of the posts that I read caused such a visceral reaction in me, that I was compelled to draft my first addition to an online message board since Teen Chat , 1998. Although I am not a student of linguistics, I do have a great appreciation for both language and the written word. For this reason, I find that the accepted use of “conversate” is an offense to proper grammar. To me, the increased acceptance and use of slang terms by athletes, celebrities, sports announcers , and other similar personalities does not legitimize a word and that the person’s continued use of the word does nothing more than highlight how uneducated and/or ignorant they are. I have had this discussion several times, with a variety of people, and many try to argue that “conversate” is indicative of the natural evolution of language but I do not agree. I accept that language evolves in order to meet the ever changing needs of those who command it, and that new words will eventually be created, but I do not agree that “conversate” is one of these words. Many try to argue that “conversate” is the back formation of conversation, thereby making it part of the natural progression of language and a legitimate new word, but what they fail to take into account is that a back formation of the word already exists, it is converse, and this makes the creation of the word both ridiculous and unnecessary which, coincidentally, is also how I view those individuals who continue propagate its use and champion its validity.
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May 17, 2011, 5:48pm
Conversate is not a word. I typed the word conversate and the squiggly lines appeared underneath the word which indicates that it is indeed incorrect. It was here in the U.S. that I first heard that word being used and I was confused as to whether it was correct. So far, everyone that i have asked has said it is incorrect (well, from my country).
I totally agree with Michelle.
May 19, 2011, 1:50pm
Wow, I was looking for some information on the word conversate when I came across this website. Your comments are very helpful, thank you. Here's another question from the city. What is the word to describe a person who sets himself or herself above others simply by the use of their vocabulary?
June 22, 2011, 10:07pm
"My tattoo artist don't like to conversate... Shiiii she tattin' my baby mommas name on my neck... And she ain't friendly." the word sounds overdone and slightly like a pseudo-intellectual. What happened to effective language?
July 6, 2011, 12:03am
What makes me upset about this particular conversation is the fact that being a back formation of converse or not anyone who generally hears this word placed in a sentence can figure out its meaning by simply listening to the text. And whether you choose to believe or not that conversate is a word , you can spell it. And by having a conversation filled with such passion involving both the pro and con it only furthers suggest that everyone knows it is a word. I'm trying to understand why is such an advanced civilization people are still arguing over what word should be used anyway ? I believe our language is big enough to support ten different back formations for converse or did our language die while I was texting this comment? Stupidity and Ignorance should not be words that flow off of any sensible and intelligent human flesh pallet due to a formation of a sentence nor a spoken word. Maybe instead of trying to kill something that already exist we can let language move forward.
July 27, 2011, 6:17am
all sounds like ebonics to me, if that`s even a real word.another one I`ve heard is interpretate. A shorten version interpretation. it`s bastardizing the language.dats alls I hads to conversate ;)
September 1, 2011, 4:59pm
September 18, 2011, 7:42pm
These days, the English language is going to pot for exactly the reasons Dave is stating. It's fine to bastardize an English word, because it's the in thing, or a fad, and everyone is doing it.
Tom in TX
November 13, 2011, 5:15pm
CitySpeak, I didn't understand your question: "What is the word to describe a person who sets himself or herself above others simply by the use of their vocabulary?"
Do you mean intentionally, like a snob? Or someone who simply outshines others by speaking correctly?
November 13, 2011, 6:05pm
CitySpeak, articulate, well versed.
December 19, 2011, 1:43pm
ok, I am a little late on this conversation but this is quite interesting. I still believe ain't ain't a word and conversate is some weird slang work someone intended to mean converse and said it wrong one day and it stuck. Same as irregardless. To me it makes one sound uneducated. I am not saying I am right but I feel these words are all wrong.
December 22, 2011, 4:47am
It is also often claimed that a ‘word’ is not a ‘word’ (or is not ‘English’) unless it is in ‘the dictionary’. This may be acceptable logic for the purposes of word games, but not outside those limits. … OED preface, 2000 http://www.oed.com/public/oed3preface
As it so happens, the word is in the wordbook:
dictionary.com: con·ver·sate [kon-ver-seyt] Show IPAverb (used without object), con·ver·sat·ed, con·ver·sat·ing. Nonstandard except in some dialects .to have a conversation; converse.
M-W:Definition of CONVERSATEintransitive verbnonstandard: converse 2aOrigin of CONVERSATEback-formation from conversationFirst Known Use: 1973
Wiktionary:EtymologyBack-formation from conversation.conversate (third-person singular simple present conversates, present participle conversating, simple past and past participle conversated)(African American Vernacular) To converse, to have conversation.
---It is a word ... not one that I would use, but it does exist (as does ain't). But, for that matter, I don't use the word converse either ... I use the word TALK!
December 25, 2011, 8:09am
And AnWulf, usually, those who make such a claim don't fully appreciate the claim's ambiguity. More often, they mean the particular collegiate dictionary they have on their particular shelf, never even realizeng that it may differ from others and changes daily, or even imagining that the OED is up to, what, twenty volumes now, I think.
January 24, 2012, 10:03pm
Loosing **Losing... If your are critiquing grammar and language, please proof read your post. lol jk, I just really hate this mistake.
January 25, 2012, 1:31pm
@DaniS ... If you're referring to this from douglas.bryrant: Some say it started when Webster's Third included the word "ain't," loosing the hounds of criticism from the prescriptive crowd.
Then loosing is correct.
From the OED: verb [ with obj. ]set free; release: the hounds have been loosed.
May 11, 2012, 2:51pm
Conversate sounds ignorant. It's either conversing or talking. We were "conversating" sounds stupid but most people don't say "We were conversing..." but they do say "We were talking..." Why not just say WE WERE TALKING?
U/Ur drives me nuts. I know people who write out every other word in the English language except for you and your. Why?
Definitely has no a in it and losing only has one o.
Most people will say or write "my bad" when the term comes from saying "Am I bad" rapidly and should be written as 'mi bad. But most people have no clue that it's not literally "my bad." I can forgive that one but not all the above.
It's not that conversate is so horrible but it's just another example of people accepting idiocy as "whatever."
May 13, 2012, 7:35pm
Suzanne, I always thought that "my bad" came from basketball, where the player committing a foul has to raise his/her hand, thus publically accepting guilt. [As an aside, my spell checker is upset with "publically" but "publicly" looks wrong looks wrong to me. That, however, if for another page.]
"My bad" therefore means "my mistake". Or is that just my bad?
May 13, 2012, 9:35pm
Conversate does not appear in the OED, or Chambers, or Collins.Does not even appear in Wordweb.That would suggest it ain't a word!
May 14, 2012, 11:23am
It is in M-W: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conve...
It is a word ... not one that I would note, but it is a word.
May 14, 2012, 11:49am
@Suzanne ... I agree with yu that noting talk is better than converse or conversate.
I'll disagree with yu about u or yu ... The 'ou' diphthong for the u/oo sound is a holdover from Norman-French scribes and should (shood?) be gotten rid of for this sound.
Definitely should lose the second e since the i before it is short. It would be better as 'definit' and 'definitly'.
my badNorth American informal used to acknowledge responsibility for a mistake:Sorry I lost your CD. It’s my badhttp://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/bad
Altho today's noting of it is said to hav started in basketball pickup games, we do find that Shakespeare noted the phrase with something like today's meaning, in his Sonnet 112:
Your love and pity doth the impression fillWhich vulgar scandal stamp'd upon my brow;For what care I who calls me well or ill,So you o'er-green my bad, my good allow?
May 14, 2012, 4:13pm
@AnWulfThere is an interesting and amusing entry in the Urban Dictionaryhttp://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=...which contains some amusing points, but does identify the source of the word.
May 15, 2012, 8:02pm
@AnWulfThose of us who hold that the OED is the ultimate authority on the English Language would have to disagree on "conversate" being a word.However, since "motherfucker" appears in those hallowed pages, I have no doubt that we shall eventually find "conversate" there too.Probably with the example:- "Yo, I just needs to conversate witcha!"
May 24, 2012, 7:59am
Yawn, Oh please do excuse me...Converse/conversate. My mother is 83 years old and has always used the word conversate. The fact is that most of the English language is full of these words that everyday ordinary folk use while conversing and it is the 'Norm' to them and those with enough intelligence will go with the flow to get the gist of the conversation being had rather than to point it out as in-proper and waist precious time debating it. All language is valuable. Yes we have a standard English that sets the bench mark so to speak, but every region of England while being taught a standard form, generally use a form that is standard to their region. All this debating over something not so important sounds like snobbery.
August 14, 2012, 11:29am
"conversate" is not a word and it is so irritating that people who are afraid to admit they are wrong will defend it.It makes ppl sound ignorant.Black ppl, others make fun of you for using it.I have only heard blacks and hispanics use it.I am not saying they are the only ones that do.Just because many ppl use it doesn't mean it's ok to speak like an idiot.So stop using it, you sound uneducated.
October 4, 2012, 11:24pm
Some of you are so exceedingly racist, elitist, and self-centered. Because you only hear such things in certain context that is the only possible way it has been used? Really? As a white male living in the West this is a word that has been and will be used. You obnoxious elitists.
As an aside, we should all listen to Lilian. Her message is clear, concise, and exactly appropriate for those who get so riled up over the word conversate.
October 4, 2012, 11:32pm
So English is to be just like Aussie Rules Football?
Rule 1: There are no rules.Rule 2: See Rule 1.
October 5, 2012, 9:09am
@Hairy Scot and Perfect Pedant - all the dictionaries you mentioned are British and this seems to be an American phenomenon, so I'm not sure what you're proving. Many dictionaries do not include the excellent Scottish word 'outwith', but that doesn't mean it's not a word.
@Lilian - some people might find your repeated use of ppl and your hectoring tone equally as irritating a you find the use of 'conversate'.
As for the Urban Dictionary, it is often just a repository for one group of young people's prejudices against another group of young people, as in this bit of bile - "A word used by backwards, ignorant, illiterate inner city trash who mean to say 'converse'." - I gave up bothering with the Urban Dictionary a long time ago.
Dictionary.com has a rather more measured and intelligent discussion here - http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/conversate
October 12, 2012, 4:31am
All supporters of "whatever words we use are okay", close your eyes, open your arms and embrace "Idiocracy". The realization of this movie is just around the corner. If you have not seen it, you have missed out on a prophetic image of where we are headed. In my opinion, there is nothing to be gained through intellectual and verbal laziness and plenty to be gained by at least attempting to exercise discipline in both thought and speech. It may be a losing battle, but if it pushes back the inevitable for just a few years, it is worth it in my opinion. I heard "conversate" on the program "Tavis Smiley" (by the moderator) the other day. It was a sad day for me personally. I guess I needs to be chillin cause my coversating wit you all like I laid out above makes me sound likin I'm pretentious or judginmental or somfin. See I kin make mah point anyways sos It must be kerect 'n proper.
December 26, 2012, 7:26pm
Mayne their aint nothin wrong with conversate! I use it regularly, like this: i didnt not conversate with youre sister last nite, i just maid out with her.
December 30, 2012, 12:31pm
How do u get from conversate ..to orientate ..to precipitate,....conversate is a newly 'made up' word redneck hillbilly jive talk
January 8, 2013, 9:59am
I have never heard of the word conversate until my boss used it (several times) at a meeting. I was confused and assumed he meant "converse". Conversate is as pleasant a word as "ain't".
February 4, 2013, 2:48pm
These comments have left me conversated.
February 4, 2013, 2:55pm
Tom in TX: <i>mea culpa</i>
February 8, 2013, 8:13pm
Conversate is not a word! It is slang/ebonics for the ignorant percentage of our population and I will never use or accept it. Our language is constantly being amended to accomodate the uneducated and I will never compromise because I know how proper English is written and spoken.
April 27, 2013, 11:41am
I have several scholars for friends who use the word conversate outside of work . If any of you called them ignorant or uneducated they would pull out their proper grammar to prove how uneducated you are. I appreciate them because even though they hold a PHD they don't look down on people. They are down to Earth people when they worked hard to have the right to act stuck up and snobbish. People should be more like them something as small as a word or slang shouldn't make people that upset. There are bigger issues in life . Get over it.
April 27, 2013, 6:15pm
No one cares.
May 7, 2013, 8:36am
If there are bigger issues then why waste your time responding?
May 7, 2013, 2:12pm
From several commenters - "conversate is not a word" - so how are we discussing it? - or "it is not a word; it is slang/ebonics". If slang and dialects don't have words, what on earth do they have? Is the F-word not in fact a word then. If I say "I can't be arsed to get out of effing bed today" - what are "arsed" and 'effing', as being slang they can't possibly be words. Apparently.
There seems to be rather a lot of snobbery (and not a little ignorance of how language works) in some of these comments. You'd certainly never hear anything like this from somebody who studies language, i.e. a linguist. What is that makes some people "get off" on criticising other people's language, I wonder?
May 22, 2013, 10:38pm
Essentially, when enough ignorant people all start using a wrong word, it becomes an accepted word. Our future is fucked.
May 24, 2013, 8:25am
@FD - What right have you to call other people ignorant? You are obviously not an expert on language, as anybody who classes others as "ignorant" simply because they speak differently is only displaying their own ignorance of how language and dialects work. And you're obviously not an expert on futurology, as changes in the way people speak have not the slightest influence on our future.
One thing, I bet that those who say "conversate" don't make fatuous and snobbish remarks like these about other people's language the way you do. I'm afraid you say more about yourself than about them.
September 18, 2013, 5:03pm
Gods forbid I get accused of being a snob or pedant, but as an English professor I have a legitimate gripe with the use of conversate. Even though it appears in M-W, note the use of non-standard English in the dictionary. That means it is not accepted as Standard English. The problem with using it is that many students these days don't differentiate between the English they use with their friends and the English they use when writing formally. Imagine the reaction a potential employer or grad school is going to have when they see conversate appear in an application. It's okay to use slang amongst friends, as long as you acknowledge that it is slang. If we're going to argue that conversate is a word, because a growing number of people use it, then does that mean that funna (as in I'm funna go to the store) is a word too?
November 19, 2013, 8:46pm
Welcome to the club.If English had the equivalent of the Académie Française then blights like "conversate", "would of", and many others would not have crept into existence and we would be spared the "fingernails on chalkboard" phenomenon.
Alas alack it seems we're stuck with this type of "evolution" in our language.
November 19, 2013, 9:30pm
Apparently "conversate" is a dialect word, normal in AAVE, which also has its own grammar.
Converse? What that mean, yo?
November 20, 2013, 5:18pm
@HS - and thank God we don't have such an equivalent, and that every time the idea has been suggested, from John Dryden onwards, wiser heads have prevailed.
Language is an organic beast, not something to be dictated by an appointed body. All major English-speaking countries are representative democracies and have legal systems based on custom and precedent, not by decree. What's wrong with treating our language in the same way? In any case how many academies would you have? You certainly couldn't have the same one for Britain and America! And then would you have a separate one for New Zealand, for example?
One of the main opponents, incidentally, was Samuel Johnson, who invoked 'English liberty' (Wikipedia).
@jayles - and linguists have shown that some elements of that grammar (in certain verb tenses I think) are in fact more complex that in Standard English; so much for the simplicity and laziness that some people seem to imagine.
November 20, 2013, 5:39pm
@WW"thank God we don't have such an equivalent, and that every time the idea has been suggested, from John Dryden onwards, wiser heads have prevailed"And the result is chaos, the linguistic equivalent to/of a horse designed by a committee.
Amerish, Kiwish, and Strine could have their own.And then of course there's Canadish. :-))
November 20, 2013, 10:19pm
@WWIn all seriousness, I have no wish to stifle the evolution of our language nor do I wish to eliminate its various nuances and grey areas.However I firmly believe that some mechanism is needed to prevent and eliminate some of the aberrations and abominations which are inflicted upon it.
November 21, 2013, 4:42pm
@HS - for at least five hundred years some people have been complaining that English is going to the dogs, and surprise, surprise, it has simply gone from strength to strength.
Where you see "chaos, the linguistic equivalent to/of a horse designed by a committee.", I see a language which is probably only beaten by Spanish and Arabic when it comes to the number of countries where it is spoken as the first or as an official language. I see a language which probably has a larger vocabulary than any other; a language which is the de facto lingua franca for much of the world. A language that has spawned one of the greatest literary traditions in the world, and arguably the greatest playwright. I see a language enrichened not only by its different national flavours, but by the diverse dialects that are spoken within those countries (and that includes AAVE). I see a language where very often it's the 'aberrations' that make it so fascinating. In other words, I see something to celebrate.
'Aberrations' and 'abominations' are in the eye of the beholder, and what is an aberration to you (for example, different to) might be absolutely standard or unobjectionable to others. Many of the 'rules' that have determined that certain words or constructions are 'incorrect' often turn out to simply have been one grammarian's whim.
The primary function of language, the reason it evolved, is to help us communicate, not to satisfy purists of one type or another. All the rest, poetry, beautifully crafted prose etc, is a happy by-product. If you don't like certain words, the answer is easy - don't use them, but don't worry too much about what other people say - to twist an old saying - words aren't sticks and stones, they can't hurt anybody.
Yes, school students need to be advised that if they want to get ahead, they'll need to learn to use Standard English, but not in a way that is derogatory towards their own dialect. Standard or 'proper' English is only superior to other dialects in one way - it has more status. But that doesn't make it intrinsically better.
As for mechanisms, we have style guides and usage guides galore, but what English doesn't need is any controlling body. The nearest we have to an authority is the OED, but quite rightly this an authority that individuals themselves choose to accept; it's not forced on us. There's an interesting article about it at the FT:
'I ask Proffitt (the new editor) whether he laments the disappearance of such distinctions (for example - disinterested / uninterested). He laughs: “No, I can’t lament language change – it keeps me in work. The OED has always maintained a purely descriptive line, it doesn’t legislate against categories of vocabulary.' And quite right too.
But if you're that bothered, you could always join The Queen's English Society.
November 21, 2013, 7:31pm
The mechanism is already there; it's called a spell-checker (checks grammar too).
"Ok guys, listen up: there's nothing wrong with your own language, just it's NBG if you want to get ahead"...
@WW How enthusiastic would you be about having English forced on you if your own language was, say, Polish or Gujurati?
November 21, 2013, 9:14pm
If you are happy with rubbish like "conversate", "would of". "hone in on", etc creeping into the language then so be it.I, for one, fail to see how such things can in any way improve communication.We are obviously so far apart on this that there is little point in further discussion.
November 21, 2013, 11:07pm
@HS Frankly, a far, far bigger issue is that there are notable areas of England where English is no longer the number one language, and over three hundred primary schools where not one of the children has English as their first langugage.Who knows, one day soon the Gorbals might be Chinese-speaking or something.Where I live, half my neighbours have limited or no English, and three out of four local supermarkets don't even have any signage in English; whether they speak any, I know not. All the other shops, doctors, pharmacy, restaurants, and so on have English as a second language, apart from The Post Office which is still holding out, making a last stand. Beneath it all, even "Standard English" is going to come under pressure to become more catholic. Perhaps the only bulwark against sweeping change is the spell-checker, and the fact that some scripts like Chinese require multi-byte storage on computers not ASCII.
"Wake up, Colonel-sahib, we were losing the sepoys in 1947."
November 21, 2013, 11:47pm
@jaylesI do not believe that we can blame immigrants in the UK, or their descendants, for the aberrations and abominations which now pollute our language.Although errors may be more common among those whose first language is not English, the sad fact is that most of the linguistic horrors are propagated by those for whom it is a first language but who are just too lazy and ignorant to use the language properly.I'd venture to say that while the immigration policies of the government of the UK, and perhaps the governments of other English speaking nations, may not meet with everyone's approval, it's a bit of a stretch to put the blame the on immigrants for the type of bastardisation of the language that we have seen over that last few decades.
November 22, 2013, 12:25am
I meant enriched, of course, not enrichened. What an abomination!
November 22, 2013, 5:14am
@jayles (1) - "How would you feel if you had English forced on you if you were Polish or Gujarati?" - I don't quite see what bearing this has with anything I said, but here goes.
The only language the Poles I know ever had forced on them was Russian, and as it happens, the Poles are enthusiastic and successful learners of English, as the latest results from the English First Survey show (9th position). Poland is the only country in Europe to have seen constant economic growth for the last ten years, and without an openness to foreign investment, where a knowledge of English plays a every important part, this would have been much more difficult.
"Poland and Hungary have made tremendous progress in learning English. These new English skills are an important step towards building the knowledge economies they aspire to have." English First
What's more up to two million Poles have migrated in search of jobs, a lot of them to Britain and Ireland. Everywhere here you see bilingual kindergartens, and virtually everybody learns English at school. The Poles I know see it as an opening to opportunity, not a millstone. It's not like Welsh-speakers or Gaelic-speakers having English forced on them as the only language that could be spoken in the school, as used to happen in the past.
As for Gujarati, it is only spoken in a relatively small part of India, and by less that 5% of the population, so if they want to speak to somebody from another part of the country, either one of them has to be bilingual or they need to have a common language.The official language of India is Hindi, with English as the 'second language of the union'. Roughly 400,000 speak Hindi as their native language, and officially just over 200,000 Indian English. This compares with 74,000 for the next biggest (Telugu) and a mere 46,000 for Gujarati. As with the Poles, English is used as a matter of convenience.
For both these groups, speaking English brings advantages, but not at the expense of their own languages. Where are these Poles or speakers of Gujarati who have English forced on them?
By the way, a simple spell checker wouldn't catch 'hone in on' or 'would of', nor 'it's' instead of 'its', nor 'you're' instead of 'your', etc, although a grammar checker might. Google Drive is based on contextual language, and is often quite good at spotting these things.
November 22, 2013, 5:55am
@jayles (2) - Are you writing for the Daily Mail now? This is just scaremongering, on a topic you've hinted at before.
The number of Chinese by ethnicity in Glasgow is about 5,000 (less than one percent of the population), and the total non-white population 10%. My experience in Edinburgh is that, while some first-generation Asians have difficulties with English, their children, born and bred there, speak pure Edinburgh.
I accept that in some areas, there have been large concentrations, and when this is combined with high levels of unemployment or poverty, this can lead to problems. I'm thinking of some northern towns which attracted a lot of Bangladeshis to work in the factories, many of which then closed in the Thatcher era, leaving high unemployment.
But let's get things into perspective. This is from 2007 - "Children of Chinese origin have outperformed every other British group in English by the age of 11", and second came Indians. White 'natives' could only manage third place.
And why shouldn't Standard English open up a bit, after all it isn't even the mother tongue of most British white children. It's a language we can all use in common, but is is it so terrible if a few dialect expression creep in? In British English 'he was sat' is an idiomatic expression (which I rather like) which is increasingly heard on Radio Four, for example. Personally, I welcome this sort of catholicity (surprised that didn't get red-lined, but apparently it's a word alright). We're all used to hearing dialect in drama and comedy shows. Why shouldn't a little of it seep into more serious areas. There is nothing superior about Standard English, apart from its status. It was just the regional dialect (East Midlands) that got lucky, being in the right place at the right time.
November 22, 2013, 7:01am
@HS - 'If you are happy with rubbish like "conversate", "would of". "hone in on", etc creeping into the language then so be it.' - Sorry HS, but I expect better of you than this sort of condescending non-argument.
"I, for one, fail to see how such things can in any way improve communication." That was completely twisting what I said. Never have I advocated using any of these expressions. But if somebody says one of these, does it in any way impede communication. My favourite EFL grammar writer, Michael Swan, has pointed out that errors foreign learners typically make, like forgetting third person S, using past simple instead of present perfect or forgetting articles have virtually no affect on comprehensibility. He's much more worried about utterances like "Please, where is the station?" (too abrupt).
There are many things in life I'm not happy with, some of which I can do something about, some of which I can't. As a teacher of English, it is of course a high priority for me that my students speak natural, acceptable English; that is an area I can do something about. And if I was teaching native speakers it would be the same. But I'm not, and no, I'm not going to get hot and bothered just because someone makes a silly mistake.
Let's look at your examples. No Academy is going to stop this sort of thing, but wiser (but not necessarily stricter, more traditional) education methods might help. No foreign learner would make first mistake of "would of" as they learn grammar as a system of how language works, not a stupid list of rules such as always using "whom" when it refers to the object. If native-speakers were given the same approach to grammar, possibly less (OK, fewer - another stupid rule) people would make this mistake. As for "conversate", if, as it seems, it has become a part of a certain dialect, then teaching that dialect is appropriate in certain circumstances, while Standard English is more appropriate in others, seems to me to be a more constructive approach. As for "hone in on" instead of 'home in on", this is the sort of error starting from mishearing that has been happening for centuries. Until the age of 19, I was convinced there was a a verb "to misle" as I'd read "misled" so often but had never heard it (I've read that that's quite common). But do these mistakes really harm anyone?
As I said before, generations have been complaining about the 'bastardisation of the language', but somehow English always seems to survive. What I'm a bit more concerned about is the devaluation of words like "abomination" and "bastardisation" to refer to simple mistakes. Does "would of" really cause you "loathing and revulsion". Do you think we can really use the same word (abomination) to describe a simple mistake and what's going on in places like Syria?
And let's get things in perspective. Be honest, how many times have you come across any of these mistakes in the last six months (I don't count comments on YouTube - I'd probably agree with you there; they're beyond the pale), and in particular in educated writing?
The British National Corpus has 551 instances of "would have done" and only 25 of "would of done". But most of them seem to be transcriptions from spoken language, where the "of" is the transcriber's interpretation.The BNC has 64 instances of "home in on" but only one of "hone in on", 266 for "converse" and two for "conversate" (both spoken). It's hardly the end of the world!
Finally, one incident earlier this year reminds us that there is absolutely no connection between speaking "good English" and being a good person. Charles Ramsay, the man who helped the young women escape in Cleveland, apparently started his 911 call with “Yeah hey bro, hey, check this out” and he might well say "conversate" for all I know. But that has absolutely no bearing on his character. And the police were apparently impressed with how succinct and precise he was in the information he gave them, so as a communicator, he seems to have scored full marks.
November 22, 2013, 1:19pm
To be clear, I was simply trying to point out that for many people English is a second language, not their native tongue, and that in the future this may well impact on what is today regarded as "standard" English.
November 22, 2013, 1:47pm
@WW It is not uncommon in Eastern Europe for multinationals to sweep in and require all management employees to learn English, or use English for all internal documentation, both for their own benefit and also so their own auditors have access to documents. There is little alternative for people who wish to find / keep a good job.I was just wondering how you yourself would feel if you had to file your lesson plans in Polish to keep your job. Less than enthusiastic?
November 22, 2013, 6:14pm
"And why shouldn't Standard English open up a bit, after all it isn't even the mother tongue of most British white children. It's a language we can all use in common, but is it so terrible if a few dialect expression creep in? "Exactly. That's what I mean when I say we need a more catholic approach.
The question is where does one draw the line? "Conversate" shows a steep rise in usage after 2000 (on Ngrams), so might be on the way to becoming "mainstream" (whatever that exactly means)."Informations" in the plural does exist properly as legal jargon in criminal law in mainstream English. However it is commonly used by English-as-second-language speakers, where mainstream English would used an uncounted form without the 's'. (happens a lot on Deutsche Welle). If one googles "general informations" one can see that information is being pluralized in quite a number of contexts, and maybe that too is beginning to make its way into mainstream English. The other thing that may not live on for ever is today's familiar tool-kit of idioms and collocations. I use them myself of course - "the sad fact is...." ; "sweeping changes", "great weather for ducks" - but that doesn't mean that we should downgrade someone who doesn't use the cliched word-string. Better to leave the door open to new input:"Great weather for frogs" (as they say in Korean).
@HS You do write such beautifully-crafted English and I am sure it is nettling to see that others do not. We all seem to judge what is right and wrong by the standards of our youth, what we were taught at school and so on; but each new generation makes up its own mind, so there's no sense in getting in a pother about it. We too shall pass.
November 23, 2013, 4:43am
@jayles (1) - the truth is that either multinationals 'sweep' in or you have unemployment. Poland is the only country in Europe to have seen continuous growth for the last ten years, so I don't think anybody's complaining too much about that (although they are worried about the high unemployment).
The kind of jobs in Poland that demand English are for well-educated people, who are likely to have a good knowledge of English already, as most of this generation will have been learning it since they started school. Unlike in Britain, a foreign language is considered a basic part of your education here, and many of my students learn two or more. And unlike Britain (disgracefully, in my opinion) a foreign language is compulsory for the Matura exams, which are necessary for university entrance, and in some universities, a foreign language is compulsory, I believe.
I must say, I find this idea of a foreign language being "forced" on you to be a very Anglo-Saxon one. Did you feel maths was "forced" on you? In most of Europe a foreign language is considered to be just as much a part of somebody's education as maths.
What's more, Poles love travel and are very open to other cultures. Poland, for example, is in the top 5 for both sending and receiving universities for the Erasmus programme , sending more students than the UK, even though it is only two-thirds the size. Poland has five universities in the Erasmus top 40. The UK has one!
You must have noticed how much pleasure students have when they start to be able to express themselves in another language, or understand foreign texts. I certainly do when speaking French or reading in Spanish.
November 23, 2013, 5:30am
@jayles (2) - sorry, I misunderstood your earlier comment about Standard English. I thought you were complaining about it coming under pressure, whereas you were simply stating a fact. Your point about International English is an interesting one.
At one of my earlier classes, I asked the students what their work involved, and amongst other things, they said that they co-operated with people in other departments. My initial reaction was "Well, I would hope you would", thinking of native-speaker uses like "She's not very co-operative". But of course in international business English, it simply means "work together".
I'm quite surprised at DW, as Germans are pretty good at using English 'in its native state', so I did a site search for 'informations' at DW. In the first five pages, only three were in English (most were in French).
One of them included a link to 'patient informations' (in German). One was a reference to "Schengen Informations-System 2" (the official EU version is singular). However, these are by far outnumbered by references to the singular "information". I imagine what you were talking about was spoken references, and not necessarily by DW staff. It looks as though when they're being more careful (i.e. in print) they overwhelmingly use the singular.
But more interestingly perhaps, one of them quoted a curator from the British Library - "What's interesting is that non-native speakers, like the Germans, accept changes that native speakers wouldn't accept. Such as plurals that don't really exist, like 'informations.' "
The other one I notice a lot is "trainings", and there's a bit of a problem here, as quite a lot of American websites, such as The National Association of Community Health Centers and The New York Peace Center (both on the first page of a Google search for "trainings") refer to trainings in the plural. Perhaps it's like accommodation, which seems to be countable in AmE.
On these occasions I always point out (as do the course books) that these are uncountable for native speakers, but don't make a big issue of it. But in fact most of my students want to speak native-speaker English rather than some international hybrid, anyway. Certainly, when I speak French, I want to speak real French.
As regards where you draw the line for Standard English, as far as native speakers are concerned, I think that has to to with acceptability to the majority of educated speakers. The (sometimes unfairly seen as conservative) American Heritage Dictionary has an interesting system of reader panels, and some of their results get published.
November 23, 2013, 6:59am
Back on topic - vattafairefoote made a very good point right at the beginning of this discussion, which I think porsche rather unreasonably dismissed - the comparison with British "orientate".
"conversate" started off, of course, as a back formation from "conversation" (the sort of thing foreign learners often do, for example, it would be quite reasonable to assume that the verb associated with "determination" was "determinate", when in fact it is "determine".
But some British have done exactly the same thing with "orientate", which Online Etymology lists as being "1849, back-formation from orientation. Related: Orientated; orientating."
All the main British dictionaries list "orientate" as a British variant of "orient", without any warning comments, although its use is admittedly much less that "orient". Its negative form "disorientated" is even more popular. In the Third edition of Fowler's, Burchill, while himself preferring the shorter version writes "... but the saving is not great. And one can have no fundamental quarrel with anyone who decides to use the longer of the two words". What I do find surprising is that Ngram shows the use of "conversate" rising in parallel in British books (although at a considerably lower level), but if you click on the links, they seem to be mainly American.
To do a side by side comparison of British and American usage, enter into Ngram Viewer: conversate:eng_us_2012,conversate:eng_gb_2012
One interesting point is that there's a little peak at the end of the 19th century, and clicking on the link brings up some Black American dialect, presumably written by whites:
"I don't want to conversate wif she. She don't unnerstan' me. She has no culchaw. She jest nuffin' but an old rabbit wif no soul above shinin' shirt collars. My wife has got to have culchaw. She don't even know grammar." (Donahoe's magazine 1894) NB apparently "culchaw" = culture
'Lor bress you, massah, dis no place to conversate !" cried the poor negro' (The lone grave of the Shenandoah - Donn Piat 1888)
"She took advantage of my youf, so she did. I doesn't care to conversate with she." (Time 1886)
So we at least know that it's been around in Black American English for some time.
The earliest example I can find is from 1872, from 'Half an hour with a good author, by himself' (A. Matthison). But I imagine it is being used here humorously.
"Mrs Golightly, this honourable court declares you decidedly impugned, nay, attainted, and condemned of treasonous practices against the truth. Conversate no more "
And here's another presumably humorous one, with not merely one, but two back-formations, from the Canadian Textile Journal of 1921 - "... they will arbitrate, negotiate, conversate, meditate, mediate, cogitate, argumentate and expostulate in setting forth their desires ..."
The earliest mention seems to be from 1762, by James Buchanan in an essay in The Monthly Review - "The British Grammar: Or, An Essay, in Four Parts, Towards Speaking and Writing the English Language Grammatically and Inditing Elegantly". But unfortunately I can find no searchable version on the web to see what he says.
November 23, 2013, 6:04pm
"Trainings" dates back to at least 1811 in AmE, used in military. You can find it via Ngram"Informations" on DW is sometimes heard from newsreader, reporter or interviewee. "Accomodations" is widely used in AmE and I've gotten used to it.NB "Akkomodation" in German (and French?) are usually false friends.
I do agree, in Europe (outside the UK) education is in some ways better, (along with public transport, double glazing, central heating, clearing the snow, plain speaking ...)
November 23, 2013, 6:20pm
@WW 'being "forced"' to learn English: perhaps better stated as having little alternative.In reality, to work effectively in English, one needs to think in English, and this can be quite invasive. If one spends all day at work thinking in English, one's first language is effectively sidelined. In the end bits of one's native-tongue wordstock just drift away. I'm sure that you know the score, being at the broomhead of linguistic imperialism.
November 24, 2013, 9:11am
@jayles - interesting about 'trainings'.
As to the people who need to use English at work, to repeat, a foreign language (or two or three) is seen as a normal part of a person's education here, as it used to be in 19th century England. For certain (usually quite high-paying) jobs you need a knowledge of English, yes. But for the vast majority of jobs, of course, English isn't a requirement at all.
As I've said before, this is common all over Europe; It's nothing to do with imperialism, whatever broomhead is might mean. It's the only way Europe can work, as an entity, as an economic area. I'm not necessarily talking about English, but some common language is needed, and German companies in the post-war rebuilding more or less decided this should be English. As I keep saying, Poles are an outward-looking nation, not like the little-Englanders who seem to be gaining so much ground at home.
In any case I doubt very many have to speak English all day or even most of the day. Most of those I teach use Polish most of the time and use English to communicate with non-Polish colleagues, either here or most often in other countries, most of whom are also not native-speakers. There is absolutely no question of their L1 being sidelined and I've seen absolutely no evidence of what you are talking about.
Sorry, but I think you're talking about a non-problem, and from a very British perspective.
November 25, 2013, 3:18pm
As an American military vet, I can't recall seeing the word 'trainings' however a quick look over net shows that it tends to be found in "higher" writings ... that is, writings by folks with doctorates. It's not held to the US. This book was publish'd in London: http://books.google.com.ar/books?id=m985hH3C0wg...
I will however own up to accommodations.
As for English being noted worldwide by businesses, as a former flight dispatcher, I can tell you all of our airport managers and even ramp agents were expected to at least write in English ... we found it much better to "text" our handlers in China than speak with them on the phone as their spoken English was truly hard to understand at times. Even in our Paris offices all the flt planners had to speak English. English is the tung of aviation. All controllers must speak English ... as must any international commercial pilot.
While I understand what someone would mean if they noted 'conversate", it is not a word that I would say.
November 26, 2013, 2:07pm
@AnWulf - you seem to have stumbled across something interesting with that book you linked to: there are indeed quite a lot of references to psychoanalysis trainings and psychoanalytic trainings in British publications. This is from the College of Psychoanalysts UK:
"The College does, however, recognise that there is a need for a wide-ranging discussion among training-organisations in the United Kingdom on what constitutes a proper training of a psychoanalyst, the relationship of psychoanalysis to psychotherapy and how psychoanalytic trainings might be recognised by The College in future."
(I don't know why they use a hyphen, either!)
Vol 28 of the British Journal of Psychotherapy includes a paper: "Attention to Culture and Diversity in Psychoanalytic Trainings"
As far as I can make out this is quite a specific meaning of the word involving sessions with patients. This is from the abstract of that paper:
"The data were analysed thematically, and a principal theme that emerged was the way that psychoanalytical clinical trainings tend, for theoretical reasons, to explore ‘internal’ psychological issues at the expense of ‘external’ material issues such as ethnicity."
Ah. The data were!
Although most of the references on the first page of a Google search are indeed British, this is from the Cleveland Psychoanalytic Center - "By having such a course we are reaching out to our community. We are meeting professionals where they are, in whatever trainings they have had."
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