To English verb. to use English properly: to have a mastery of conventional grammar, spelling, syntax, and usage.
I studied English Literature at university. Not, like some of my classmates, because I couldn’t get into my preferred program, but because English was my preferred program — it was what I’d wanted to do since I was twelve years old. I also took bits and pieces of a professional writing program, including a course on copy editing. I have always had good grammar and a large vocabulary, which I assume is due to natural aptitude enhanced by the fact that I read so much. I spent so many years writing grammatically and syntactically immaculate essays, and correcting the grammar and syntax of others, as did some of my friends, that we sometimes playfully do things wrong in our private conversations and correspondence; inverted syntax, intentionally using wrong words or non-words, etc. For example, taking the noun “English” and turning it into a verb with the meaning “to use English properly”.
So usually if I use the wrong word or say something nonsensical it’s by design: I’m being funny, or sarcastic, or ironic.
There are times, however, when My Brain simply turns itself off, and I seem to become incapable of the simplest linguistic tasks. Most commonly, I will simply draw a blank, and find myself incapable of remembering the word I need to express my thought. And most of the time it’s not even a complicated word, the kind of thing that teachers when I was a kid used to refer to as “five-dollar words” — it’s something like “banana” or “pliers”.
If this happens when I’m writing, then no harm and no foul — I can take my time, or use a google search, and figure out what I’m saying.
But if it happens while I’m speaking, things quickly get awkward: I will pause in confusion, start erratically gesticulating with my hands and/or whole body, and finally stutter out something nonsensical like ” . . . thing! . . . grippy metal bendy tool!” in some bizarre verbal version of charades (which I know there is an actual name for, but neither I nor my roommate can think of it at the moment. The internet is non-helpful, providing only the various trademarked names that it has been sold under, but we know there has to be a generic name — tell me what it is in the comments!)
My favourite example of this comes from the fall of 2014, and a conversation I had with a coworker when we were both afflicted with inarticulisity* at the same time. I was in the office attempting to put away patient files, which is normally a very easy job for me: but on this particular day My Brain turned off, and putting things away alphabetically was much harder than it should have been.
When I emerged from the office, my then-coworker was telling me something and found herself completely at a loss for the vocabulary she needed. That’s when this happened:
Yes, that actually came out of my mouth. No, this is not one of those times when I’m exaggerating for comic effect.
Sometimes I think My Brain needs more RAM. For faster processing speeds.
* Note: This is one of those examples of me using made-up words on purpose. I know “inarticulisity” is not a word. But it should be.