ôô

'Kinda,' 'Wanna,' and 'Gonna': Real Words or Not?

Almost everyone says words such as "kinda," "wanna," and "gonna," but writing them is much more troublesome.

By
Bonnie Mills, read by Mignon Fogarty,
Episode #627
A woman blowing bubble gum and wearing a backward hat. She's informal!

ESL Students

If you are learning English and are in an English-speaking country, you’ll hear informal contractions everywhere. Those who have learned a foreign language in a classroom and then have gone to a country where that language is spoken might have had the experience mentioned by Mr. John R. Rickford in the front matter of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. This professor of linguistics at Stanford writes, “We master textbook Spanish and land in Mexico to encounter a welter of words, pronunciations, and grammatical twists we never even dreamed existed” [4]. And so it is with English, as exemplified by these informal contractions. Even if someone is reading a piece of text out loud and the writing contains a phrase like “going to” or “kind of,” it is highly likely that the native speaker will pronounce these as “gonna” and “kinda.” It is also highly likely that no English as a Second Language textbook lists these as valid and common words. When foreign-language learners can use contractions like these, they’ll sound more natural than if they stiffly enunciate every syllable. So, ESL students, try saying, “I’m gonna go out to the movies” instead of “I am going to go out to the movies.”

Native Speakers 

As for native speakers, it would be impossible to stop saying things like “hafta” and “lemme" in our day-to-day lives. There’s no need for us to curb that tendency, unless we are speaking in a formal situation. On the other hand, there aren’t too many occasions when writing those words is a good idea. One acceptable place to throw in a “gimme” or a “wanna” is in a text or an email to a friend. The only other good place to write that sort of informal contraction is if you are writing a novel in which you are trying to capture the real way that your characters speak. Mark Twain was a master. Just open up “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” or “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and you will see all sorts of interesting phrases and contractions that aren’t in the dictionary. An example quoted in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, from “Huck Finn,” is “We said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft” [5].

Conclusion

Well, we hafta go now. Hope you kinda liked this episode. Lemme know if you have any questions.

That segment was written by Bonnie Mills, author of "The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier" who blogs at sentencesleuth.blogspot.com.

Almost everyone says words such as "kinda," "wanna," and "gonna," but writing them is much more troublesome.

Sources

[1] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Houghton Mifflin, 2006, p. 1938.

[2] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Houghton Mifflin, 2006, p. 743.

[3] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Houghton Mifflin, 2006, p. 756.

[4] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Houghton Mifflin, 2006, p. xxiii.

[5] Bartlett, John. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 16th Edition. Little, Brown & Company, 1992, p. 526.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Pages

The Quick and Dirty Tips Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.