Is it just me, or does the above phrase turn anybody else’s stomach? Anybody who knows me will already be well-aware of my utter disdain for the concept of “doing” magic, but I feel it’s time I tried to actually open a dialogue about it.
There are plenty of other phrasing choices to get angry about, of course. I still have trouble believing that the entertainment industry is incapable of correcting its use of “lie” vs “lay”, for example. I also get a bit annoyed about people saying “poisonous” when they mean “venomous” (though I’ll admit, that one’s a bit more about a desperate need to feel superior). These, however, are words with clearly defined rules which prescribe their use. Thousands and thousands of books and websites have arisen in recent times to teach people how to use these words, and one can easily point to those as evidence when positing their perfectly valid arguments.
There are those phrases, though, which are bothersome, yet which violate no particular rule. They make you want to scratch your own eyes out (or eardrums, I suppose), but when it comes time to put the user of such offense in his or her place, there’s no evidence, no cardinal rule you can point to which is evidence of a mistake. It just “sounds” wrong.
I hear it all the time in movies, read it all the time in books.
“Her ability for doing magic was second-to-none.
“We’re not allowed to magic outside of Hogwarts.”
Scratch, scratch, bleed.
It’s perfectly valid, of course. “To do” is a wonderfully useful verb, which allows one to partake in just about any activity and be able to refer to it with minimal fuss. I would argue, however, that nobody “does” magic. You “perform” magic. You “create” magic. You can “invoke” magic. “Doing” it? Yech! It’s like a little boy, referring to himself, and saying “Johnny wants a cookie,” instead of “I want a cookie.”
Does it bother you? If so, then thank you. Thank you, thank you, I am finally not alone. If not, then consider this sentence: “Yeah, I went do the Elton John concert last week. He still really knows how to do the piano!”
I’m finishing a draft of chapter 5 this week. Things got a little bit muddy over the last month, and I’ve been a little unsure what to do about them. Then, over the holiday weekend in England, I put the dog in his harness and took him for a long walk in the rain, which is my usual prescribed cure for “I don’t know what’s wrong with my story.” Result? A bit of rewriting and the moving around of a few chapter elements, and suddenly what amounts to the first act of SotRS is suddenly really working well. This is exciting stuff, and I’ll be able to start on chapter 6 next week!