Re: active vs. passive voice

Subject: Re: active vs. passive voice
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: "Ronquillo, Michael" <mronquillo -at- equitrac -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 28 Mar 2008 03:53:21 -0700

Ronquillo, Michael wrote:
> Why not use the word shown instead?
> I personally hate displayed as it reminds me of a store putting an item
> on display.


A satisfying two-part explanation for the undocumented intransitive form
of the verb 'display' appears to be staring back at me from Michael's

The 'active vs passive voices' topic has carried me along, but now I'm
going to make slight foray away from the trail, and into linguistic
theory. I hope it won't UPSET anyone/everyone. I can't recall ever
dabbling in linguistics on this list, so I should probably assume that
linguistics is OT for techwhirlers? But nah, that wouldn't be me.
Sorry, but if you don't care to read this kind of thing, allow me to
remind you that you do have a delete key.

The two part explanation:

1. Display, as a noun, needs no further introduction.

2. I have a theory, but first I want to give you a little background. If
I emigrated to a non-English speaking land and learned the language
spoken there, that second language would undergo 'creolization' at my
hands, as I grope around trying to learn the major features. I would
then be able to speak a sort of creole or pidgin version of the
;anguage. My version of the second language would probably have
features, ranging from pronunciation to semantics, held over from
English. One way I would cope with the need for common forms in the new
language, like plurals, intensives, tenses, voice and so on, is by
making them up partly from the fabric of English, and partly from
vocabulary and semantics learned in the new language. Conversing in a
barely-known language without recourse to English causes me to do
exactly that.

Language speakers all over the world do this sort of thing in learning
to speak the languages of tourists, for example, or in adopting foreign
vocabulary tied to commerce, culture, technology, and so on. English
does this prodigiously, of course, and that's my point.

An example from abroad: In the Tagalog-speaking region of the
Philippines, the advertising slogan of the San Miguel Brewery once was
"Mag-beer muna tayo." See it? They've turned the English word 'beer'
into a verb. "First, let's drink some beer" is that slogan.

That's the well-known process by which the noun 'display' theoretically
becomes the intransitive verb display, driven by a logical need for a
new term that is specific to a then-new technology.

English doesn't reserve this facility only for foreign words. If I set
up a display(n) of my wares at the Saturday flea market, I can also say
(and be generally understood) that my wares are displayed(v,i) at the
flea market. This usage and construction sounds right to my ear, and is
just too commonly encountered to be a big dumb mistake made with a
transitive verb. English (the living language) seems to allow it.

Always, IMHO.

Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com

Create HTML or Microsoft Word content and convert to Help file formats or
printed documentation. Features include support for Windows Vista & 2007
Microsoft Office, team authoring, plus more.

True single source, conditional content, PDF export, modular help.
Help & Manual is the most powerful authoring tool for technical
documentation. Boost your productivity!

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.


active vs. passive voice: From: Michelle Vina-Baltsas
RE: active vs. passive voice: From: Ronquillo, Michael

Previous by Author: Re: active vs. passive voice
Next by Author: Re: active vs. passive voice
Previous by Thread: RE: active vs. passive voice
Next by Thread: RE: active vs. passive voice

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads