Friday, April 14, 2017

Sherlock, Sherlocker, Sherlockest . . .

When it comes to words, there are two definite ends to the spectrum.

On one side, language is a thing of rules and proper construction. On the other, a palette of verbal paints to be blended and applied in whatever way conveys the proper message to the reader.

Words can be taken as a science, or an art, or a bit of both. And as a result of the latest Hansom Cab Clock Club newsletter, e-mailed out by Don Hobbs, a bit of discussion ensued following Don's use of "Sherlock" as a verb. He was subsequently accused of verbal misdemeanor by Mark McGovern, and I found myself forced to plead Don's case in the court of "Reply All."

Citing evidence that Don had been using "Sherlocking" since at least 2003 in blog posts, and that he had been "beshillinged" into the Baker Street Irregulars after at least nine years of publicly doing so, I suggested that using "Sherlock" as a verb seemed to be approved by that highest Sherlockian authority in the U.S., if we are to imagine such a thing exists. And therein always comes the bone of contention between word scientists and word artists. Do we accept a voice of authority or let the chaos of the verbal marketplace run rampant?

"Holmes" and "Watson" are what our heroes are called in Doyle Canon, but "Sherlock" and "John" have become a popular usage since the Sherlock Canon, even for the originals. "Johnlock" is a shipping term for Holmes/Watson romance, while "Tunalock" is the identifier for an alternate universe where Sherlock Holmes is a fish and not just human Holmes in love with a tuna. One can plant one's feet in the dirt on a particular usage, but variations on "Sherlock" seem to be coming from every direction of late.

If I say you have a Sherlock brain, and someone else has a Sherlocker brain than you, it's definitely less confusing that saying you have a Sherlockian brain and they a more Sherlockian brain, if you mean said brain is like Sherlock's. Would "Sherlockish" be less confusing and more the proper adjective?  Can the mad zealots among us undertake to start using "Sherlock" as every part of the English language, not just noun and verb, but adjective, adverb, preposition, etc.? Will happy anarchy prevail as "Sherlock Sherlock Sherlocked Sherlockly Sherlocker Sherlock Sherlock Sherlock!" becomes our cultural dialect?

Pishlock poshlock! We can't have too much Sherlock Holmes!

Okay, I know, five seasons of a certain "Sherlock Holmes" makes me a liar with that last statement. But I'm just having fun here. Sherlock Holmes has been around long enough that there are serious scholars doing serious work on our friend with serious words. They need to be a little less silly with the verbiage.

Some of us, however, are probably always just going to be screwlocking around.

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