9.10.2009

Grokking Grok

It's not so much that I'm gleeful when I catch a typo in the New York Times. It's a big paper, it publishes daily, spelling errors are bound to slip through the cracks. But if you are verbally in-the-know enough to be familiar with the verb to grok (a sci-fi neologism coined by author Robert Heinlein to mean something on the order of "comprehending something so intimately that it is a part of you," here used quite aptly in Cintra Wilson's critical shopper review of Comme des Garçons, a label requiring sci-fi verbs if there ever was one) then I would imagine you should realize that its past tense formation is grokked.

It's not as if the Times doesn't know what it's doing. If you double-click on any word in any article you are directed to a definition page, and "grocked" turns up nothing. Grok, meanwhile, is defined as "To understand profoundly through intuition or empathy," and we are given its tense-dependent variants: "grok·ked, grok·king, groks." If you're going to use grok, Times, please attempt to grok it first.

3 comments:

nadarine said...

This came in my RSS feed, and without even looking at the header and seeing RSGo or any identifying info, I immediately thought "THIS MUST BE HELEN."

WSPL said...

i am, in fact, just listening to this book on CD now. Good catch, copy editor extraordinaire.

befalas said...

I've read _Stranger_ often enough that I knew about "grokked" from experience -- but note that "grokked" tells us that the "o" sound in "grok" is short, because otherwise "groked" would be correct.

As I recall, there is a standard rule for pluralizing neo-nouns; for example, two or more computer input devices are not "mice" but rather "mouses," just as two or more scions of the House of Black would be Siriuses and not Serii.

Is there a similar rule for verbs?

P.S. Never thirst.