Hangry for English changes?

| Michael Chugani 14 Jun 2018

As I have said before, the English language, like other languages, is constantly evolving (changing, developing). The Oxford Dictionary added over 1,000 new words to its dictionary earlier this year, including the word "hangry," which means getting angry or bad-tempered because of hunger. The way Hong Kong people speak Cantonese is also evolving. Hong Kong people are constantly creating new slang words which they use during daily conversations or on social media. I used the word "mistaken" in a recent column. A reader e-mailed to say I had made an error because the correct word should be "mistakened."

Actually, I did not make an error. There is no such word as "mistakened." The correct word is "mistaken", which means being wrong in understanding something. But many people nowadays use "mistakened" instead of "mistaken" on social media because they wrongly believe they should add "ed" to make it more like a past-tense word. Nothing can be done about this error because the English language is always evolving. But it is unlikely the Oxford Dictionary will include it as a new word because it is not really a new word. It is an old word incorrectly spelled by social media users.

Another reader e-mailed to say I made a mistake when I said "grammar mistake" in a previous column. The reader pointed out that I should have said "grammatical mistake" or "a mistake in grammar." It is true that "grammatical mistake" is more widely used than "grammar mistake." But as I have said numerous times before, English is an evolving language. There is nothing wrong with saying "grammar mistake." A quick search of the internet will show both are acceptable. The reader who e-mailed me is not a native English speaker. Many Hong Kong people treat grammar as a science instead of part of a language. Native English speakers will see nothing wrong with either "grammar mistake" or "grammatical mistake." If you say "he's no hero," people who treat grammar as a science will say it should be "he's not a hero." But native English speakers always say "he's no hero" instead of "he's not a hero."

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