Thursday, July 23, 2015

Orientated is Now a Word and Neither My Mom Nor I Like It.


Sometimes a grammar mistake is made so often it bludgeons its way into the dictionary. One such word is orientate, which came to be through an exasperating persistence of error. It is now an accepted past tense of orient, though I am not ever letting go of what is in my view its only correct past tense form, oriented.

The average person probably hears the word orientation more than orient, so independent of one another, people all over the country again and again instinctively modified orientation to orientate as the correct verb form.

By sheer volume, these rabble masses, these teeming hoi polloi have bulldozed this ugly construction into legitimacy, but even though most dictionaries define it without even a hint at its awfulness, I think it is still true that nearly all English speakers who have made a personal commitment to speak and write well prefer oriented.

I am particularly attached to this one, because I have a clear recollection of my mother teaching this to me when I was in fifth grade. Coincidentally, I went back home to New Hampshire last weekend to spend her 83rd birthday weekend with her. While not a strict grammar preservationist, on this one I am strongly oriented toward the traditional form.