Conversate

Ed’s note: I’m thinking of reading/reciting this next week at an open mic. Some of you have seen it on Facebook already. But I’m curious to see what others think.

Let’s conversate for second. Just you and I, no big group of people to embarrass you with what I’m about to say.

So here goes. The second set of letters at the beginning of this monologue isn’t really a word. Shocking, huh?

I know you’ve been using it since you began believing you were smarter than the average bear. But even Yogi Bear warned Boo Boo about the dangers of mistakenly replacing converse with conversate. He told him it was sorta like starting a forest fire or forgetting his picnic basket.

OK, that’s not true. But Mama Bear sternly warned me long ago. She told me that I’d come across as a babbling fool if I ever said that non-word in public. She told me I would be embarrassing her.

So I’ve tried to keep that non-word out of my mouth since about 1994. I mean, who would want to upset Mama Bear? Not me.

I’ll admit it, I’ve done it before. See, I once pronounced the word extraordinary as “extra-ordinary” in front a room full of people, including my mother. Trust, she didn’t have kind words for me when next we conversed.

I told her I couldn’t understand why some fool would stick two perfectly fine words next to each other and change the pronunciation. I’d smack that person now if I could.

Taking that into consideration, I’ve posited why you say “conversate.” You break down the word conversation logically thinking “conversate” should be the root word. Makes sense. But it’s extra-ordinarily wrong.

Irregardless of this fact, I sympathize with you. You should want to smack the person who thought “converse” sounded more educated. Don’t do it, though. Refusal to heed my advice might lead to you conversing with your new roommate at your local county jail. Don’t be shocked or get upset if he or she asks you to “conversate” from time to time.

Look at it this way: At least you’ll be able to teach a not-so-extraordinary lesson or two. Again, the word is converse. You know, like the shoes Dwyane Wade wears while hooping. OK, maybe not. Those are called Con-verse, not “converse.”

Anyway, I’ll mute my monologue here, so you can tell me what you’re thinking. See, I can’t tell you how many idiots it takes to conversate while screwing in a light bulb. But I know it takes at least two people to converse.


I blame Biggie Smalls because of this lyric: “Conversate for a few, cause in a few we gon’ do what we came to do/ain’t that right boo? ‘True.'”

And yes, I know irregardless is not a word.

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58 responses to “Conversate

  1. Yeah I saw this on fb and thought it was hilarious. Since you reposted your note I figured I’d repost my comment:

    HAHA, you just busted some bubbles with this. I had someone attempt to argue me down about this topic. I almost forgot that saying about when you argue with a fool no one call tell the difference from a distance but then I quickly ended the discussion by pulling out a dictionary (which this person had probably never seen in real life).

    • “@tam: Now you see the irony behind your comment on the M.E. Dyson letter. I literally wrote this hours ago, just before your comment. Pure hilarity. lol.”

      that’s what I said in response. lol.

  2. I remember during my freshman year @ Mizzou I used the word “converse” and impressed Kelton! lol… He was like “You know that conversate isn’t a word!!!” I had never heard the word “coversate” before and just smiled. I wish I had never heard it…

    Irregardless gets under my skin as well as supposably! lol… Now, I know that technically “supposably” is a word but I like “supposEDly” so much better! lol…

    • @ishea: look at you with the enlightenment for the the night. I had no clue “supposably” is a word. Who woulda thunk it? not me.

  3. good LAWD, this is one of my pet peeves — words that don’t exist and people say them as if they do. i seriously grate my teeth and give people SEVERE side-eyes when they say ‘brung.’ ugh. just typing it made me want to give myself a side-eye.

    • @dojo: Why you mad? cause nobody dun brung you what you wanted? lol.

      No, I just keep my mouth shut and remain polite in most situations. There are things that I still say wrong to this day.

      I say “warsh” instead of “wash” sometimes (it’s a Kansas thing, I’m told). And instead of turning lights off, I “cut” them off. … idk.

  4. I want to add that I can’t stand that one of my coworkers says “BIDness” instead of “business”. Of course he is one of US and when he does it in front of a large group of THEM then I can’t help but feel embarrassed for him (or maybe because of him).

  5. ***handclaps****

    Nothing to add here, you’ve stepped on toes quite nicely. 😉

  6. You know what burns me up more than conversate and irregardless? When people put prepositions in front of tomorrow and yesterday.

    As in, “We are going to the movies on tomorrow” or “Sally went to the store on yesterday”. Why do they do this??

    I don’t know if everyone does it or if it’s just a Southern thing. But I hate it just the same.

    • @hgextraordinaire: Funny, HG extra-ordinaire. lol, only I’d actually see that mess …

      “On Tomorrow”: That doesn’t bother me because I rarely here it. But I think saying “on Monday, on Tuesday, etc.” is wrong, too. Asyoureditor can help me out, but I use to mess that one up all the time.

      • AP style says to use “on” before the day of the week only if the day of the week comes after a proper noun.

        Incorrect: He went to the mall on Tuesday.
        Correct: He went to Lenox Square on Tuesday.

        • Clearly, something I should know … but different places have different styles that they use for that … smh. It’s like OK, okay and ok.

          I’m just confused with all the variations. lol. But you already know this.

      • Wow, thanks asyoureditor. I had no idea about the rules for “on.” I, too, hate when people say “on tomorrow” or “on yesterday,” but I didn’t know about the proper noun rule.

  7. P.S.

    Since moving to the South, I also hate when people say the letter “R” as “R-ruh”

    • I can’t even mess with that. It’s in the south. I just try to adapt and understand because the culture is different every where.

      The only thing that bothers me is this: I grew up in Kansas City thinking anyone who spoke Spanish was from either Spain or Mexico. Needless to say, I was shocked the first time I went to Miami and their there were people as dark as I am who couldn’t speak a lick of English ….

      That’s life. *shrugs shoulders*

  8. Same comment from FB:

    Craziness. I think of all the words you listed, the one that bothers me the most is irregardless. I cringe when I hear that but only correct the people I know & care about so they won’t say it to someone else and look dumb. Conversate is just a no-no. Although if you Google it a definition actually comes up, which is probably why some people think it’s a real word. When I hear conversate, it also makes me think of this blog http://www.conversateisnotaword.com/

    Those who think Wiki is right about everything probably base their use of the work on this. http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/conversate All I have to say, is that I’m just glad this wasn’t listed in the urban dictionary. I’m not saying it isn’t listed there, just that I refused to look there. 🙂

  9. thecomebackgirl

    I think i wrote on this before on your FB…im fascinated with linguistics..regional, local etc..And how accents etc are adopted, maintained changed etc.

    to me there were MANY words and use of slang that have been adopoted as authentic “google” is one “rap” is another. “Let me rap to you about something real quick”.

    hell “real” in the sentence “real quick” is a sort of slang and out of context. I realize that conversate might not ever be a word..

    but again some of this is just black folks who need to feel better about themselves over how language is used. Words for ever and a day have separated the “cultured” from the “classless”.

    But everyone wants to be a Prof. Higgins to the masses Eliza Dolittle, thats just human nature.

  10. @cbg: The catch is that I never want to be the person who says something that’s extremely minor to call someone I know personally out to their face, and put them down.

    I know people like that, and I think they’re the worst kind of people, the ones who correct you just to build themselves up.

    As you can see, I threw myself under a bus by admitting that I used the non-word “extra-ordinary” … I still have to catch myself any time I want to you use extraordinary. Most often I just avoid it.

    But you’re right. There are many words that work their way into the lexicon. But “conversate” is one of those non-words that I don’t think ever will because there is a word that means the exact same thing, and is basically born from the same root: converse.

    i can understand “rap,” “google” and even “ain’t.” (Thank you, Sojourner Truth).

    But conversate? *shakes head*

    • thecomebackgirl

      i guess i just don’t get the big deal …about how words are used to become slang, etc…particularly with educated grown folks.

      children are a whole different ball of wax. One of the things I would want my kids to be able to do is be able to flow fluidly between both and understand the difference.

      • @comeback: I think you definitely want your children to be able to flow in different crowds. It’s a necessity to survive in today’s America.

        Knowing slang is a good thing. But knowing when and when not to use it is better.

        But conversate, irregardless and extra-ordinary are not slang. They’re often non-words used by people trying to make valid points or arguments. Sometimes, they pop up in work place conversations or settings you don’t think they should. … It’s not just Black vernacular …

        The first person I read this to was a white guy who had no clue that conversate wasn’t a word, and he said that he used it all the time …

        • thecomebackgirl

          “Slang is the use of highly informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker’s dialect or language.”

          • Does that definition infer that slang also requires that you know that the slang word is incorrect? … thoughts?

            • thecomebackgirl

              i hate to turn this into a philosphocial discussion but it “only” takes a few dozen/hundred years for a word to become modified/adopted/ and acknowledged as a “bonafide” word.

              • @cbg: you know I’m fine with a discussion with you. Even if we disagree, it’s always intriguing. …

                You’re right. Thing is, it usually takes quite some time like you said. And like I said earlier, i can’t ever see it happening for irregardless or extra-ordinary …

                Conversate has a slight chance. But it will probably make its way to the dictionary at about the same time Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens are elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame …

                Let me put this in your terms since you hate sports: Conversate will be in the dictionary when Tina Turner gets back with Ike.

  11. I actually like the non-word conversate. I know converse is the proper term, but I like the word, so I use it in informal settings. I also like fixin’, ya’ll & gonna, although people use these non-words out of laziness rather than ignorance, as in the case with conversate.

    • @AJ: welcome … I use “y’all” all the time. I don’t know if it’s a Midwest thing or what, but it’s essential to my vocab … I may have said this earlier but sometimes I’ll say “warsh” instead of “wash” *shrugs*

  12. @AJ & @Damon: I’m with y’all…lol. I use y’all all the time. It may be a midwest thing though.

  13. @ Damon, thanks for the welcome. Ya’ll is a Midwest thing, too? I thought it was strictly Southern! Ialso thought inserting that “r” was a Southern/country thing (think Madea). Interesting.

    • @aj: IDK… and Rs are said differently in so many places.

      Chicago is different from STL which is vastly different from KC … and that’s all within eight hours of driving. smh.

      Y’all is a Midwest thing, I think. But who knows? they could have been saying it in England in the 1400s.

  14. future mrs. brown

    I found out that “conversate” wasn’t a word when I watched the Fifth Wheel on television. The guy dating the all five girls cut one of them after she used the word and told her it wasn’t a real word. All the girls even laughed at her because they knew it wasn’t one either. I was floored and went to look in Webster and was so ashamed. After that, I vowed never to use it again.

    Beyonce uses it all the time in her songs…so blaming Biggie is pointless now.

    • @futuremrsbrown: You should google “conversate” and “Lyrics” … it’s appalling how often it’s used by people who write music … But that’s life.

  15. So I just reviewed this …and I’m a little late responding…but I’m certain you know that irregardless isn’t an actual word either…lol!!

    I blame music for perpetuating “conversate” – so many artist have done it, and it leads misguided souls (including myself) to think it’s ok to use such words. I wasn’t put up on “converse” game until a great friend of mine corrected me back at good ol’ MIZ-ZOU in 2000. I still struggled for a while to get “conversate” out of my system – event today, it crosses my mind when I say “converse” instead.

    I’m glad someone has spoken up about it…we need to reach out to these artist and get them on the ball…

    Mal

    • @mal: AHHHH, you didn’t read the last sentence. lol. I was hoping someone would catch it and comment before I said that I knew “irregardless” wasn’t a word.

      But, at least, you thought it through, and figured I knew. lol.

      Moni pretty much forced me into using “irregardless,” and it fits just right.

  16. Dangit!! In my rush of excitement to correct someone…I missed that last line…also, I struggle like so many with scanning on-line instead of reading…I’m working on it though…

    And that sounds like something Moni would force you into…:)

    • @mal: yeah, Dani almost made the same mistake you did on FB when i posted it there. But she read the end of it. She was just waiting to correct me. lol.

      I’m gonna read this at jazz poetry jams on Tuesday. You down?

  17. Yes!! I’ve been missing that scene…every 3rd Tuesday for the past few months wouldn’t open up for me.

    And thinking about it…this may be my last one – Mr. Piolli has reset our practice schedule so instead of Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, we practice on Tuesday and Fridays. BLAH!! As much time as they’re spending in there…we BETTER make the dang playoffs!!

    Hey…have you been to the poetry nights @ Harpers on the first Sunday? I may have to get my fix there since my Tuesdays are about to be on lockdown.

    • I haven’t done the Harpers thing yet, but need to peep out that scene as well. Let’s do that in June for sure. … And yeah, with all the work that’s going on we best make the playoffs. But I’m not crossing my fingers.

  18. all i can do is LOL

  19. “Irregardless”

    LOL. i died when i got to that word in this post. you shouldn’t have told, people. just let it stand. you gotta do a post on “irregardless” too. PLEASE

    Hilarious. As always.

    • @belle: I had to tell them. I wish you could see the Facebook comments… one of my good friends was just waiting to call me out for using “irregardless” until she saw the correction …

      I think I may let Monica tackle “Irregardless” as a post if she wants, which she will. She hates that non-word more than I do. lol.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  20. Damon!
    I have one concern.
    (You wrote: Needless to say, I was shocked the first time I went to Miami and their were people as dark as I am who couldn’t speak a lick of English ….

    I will charge your “THEIR” to your fingers and not your head!
    there-their-they’re
    Also to the person who hates the “R-ruh” I hate it too and it is hard to get my students to stop saying that.
    I also do not like when people end a sentence with a preposition and or leave verbs out: “Where you at?” as opposed to “Where are you”

    • I will make the change just for you Steph (lol), but I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again … I screw up their/there/they’re from time to time when I’m typing fast and not re-reading (which I do often in the comments) … But if you catch one of those wrong in any letter, you have permission to open fire on asyoureditor, then me. lol.

      and I hate the “you can’t end a sentence in a preposition” rule. It makes me have to work entirely too hard sometimes. smh.

      But that’s life.

  21. Okay, this doesn’t fit in with the made up words, but this is a made up meaning…”perpetrate.” Just like you partially blame Biggie for “conversate,” I blame Beyonce for “perpetrate.”

    “Goin’ on shoppin’ sprees perpetratin’ to your friends like you be ballin'”

    Did someone along the way think that “perpetrate,” because it sounded alot like “impersonate,” had a similar meaning? I don’t know, but it sure bugs the heck out of me.

  22. So Damon, I take it you don’t like Oswald Bates all that much. LOL.

  23. I don’t think I had ever heard the non-word “conversate” until I was in my 30’s and I almost had a stroke.

  24. Yeah!!! Three cheers for ” Conversate is NOT a word”. I have spent the last 15 years noticing how ignorant people sound when they say that word. I have corrected all my friends because I do not want them to sound as retarded to another person as they do to me.
    How in the hell did this “word of urban legend” make it into Merriums? Thank God I saw your web site and others like it, or I would have lost confidence in all I believe in.
    But then again, I thought linguist was another word for oral sex!!! Ha!

  25. LOL at the people who get upset over the word choices of others. Where do you think words come from? Do you think some omnipresent god created English and every word we would ever need? “Minority” used to refer to minors, and a “slogan” was a battle-cry.

    Also: ending sentences with prepositions is not a matter of grammar, but one of style; and there’s nothing wrong with breaking it.

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