Friday, 23 October 2009

when expressions go extinct

As I was listening to a discussion today on the ABC about the future of the Southern Bluefin Tuna, an expert in the area said they might possible go extinct if we don't work out whether we are overfishing this species.

I don't say "go extinct". I would normally say become extinct. I was surprised to hear the former phrase used on the ABC, and by an expert. I had noticed the same phrase used in the book I mentioned on 17 September, The Link, by Colin Tudge.

It appears I am behind the times, so I'd better adjust my vocabulary to the twenty-first century.

A quick Google search on the phrases 'go extinct/become extinct' comes up with a list of sites almost equally divided between the two phrases, but the interesting thing is that many of the brief summaries use both expressions interchangeably.

So maybe I can keep on saying it my way. My way is not extinct yet.


TransientCatJuggler said...

yes, i'm with you on this one. the phrase "go extinct" just seems to grate slightly. i've tried to figure out why and the best that i can rationalise is that i view "extinct" as the description of a state (the state being that something is no longer in existence). when saying "become extinct" it sounds correct, because the purpose of the word "become" is to describe a change in state. the word "go" more generally denotes a change in location, so "go extinct" sounds wrong as it makes extinct sound more like a destination than a state. i'm sure steven pinker could explain it far more succinctly though :P

parlance said...

CatJuggler, I think you're on to something there. It might be like the state of being 'dead'. I can't imagine saying someone or something would 'go dead'. It would also be unusual to say 'become dead', but that still sounds more logical.