I’ve been thinking about workshops recently.
No, not the sort that illustrates this post, but writing workshops for the commentary, critique and creation of original texts.
My brother has advised me that if I arrive at a workshop and find no lathe, no drills, no carpenter’s or mechanic’s tools etc., I should demand my money back and leave.
Which is all very well, but poetry and writing workshops exist, and the usage is not particularly modern. The Online Etymology Dictionary claims – although with no citation – that the meaning “gathering for study etc.” is from 1937, which means it wouldn’t have been strange even to my parents’ generation, and typing “define:workshop” into Google gives a list of definitions and references to support this usage.
What it doesn’t do, and what neither my Chambers Concise 20th Century Dictionary nor my Concise Oxford Dictionary do, is to show the word’s use as a verb.
Perhaps this is why it seemed strange to see the word ‘workshopping’ written recently. Something struck me as inherently wrong – or at least ugly – about the word. I understand that the noun ‘workshop’ has been assimilated into the language so firmly that it is written as a compound word without a hyphen. But I really feel the verb should be hyphenated.
There aren’t many English spelling rules, but there are some norms and guidelines that I find generally useful. I understand, for example, why ‘shopping’ should have a double ‘p’ (compare the pronunciation of ‘hop’ / ‘hopping’ with ‘hope’ / ‘hoping’).
But although the final ‘n’ in ‘pen’ must be doubled in forms such as ‘penned’ and ‘penning’, the word ‘happened’ only warrants a single ‘n’ as the stress falls on the previous syllable. In ‘workshop’ the stress is also on the frst syllable, so why isn’t the gerund/participle ‘workshoping’? Might it be because it looks downright wrong to most literate native speakers?
But ‘workshopping’ struck me as every bit as unattractive when I saw it written. So, given the fact that I don’t pronounce it workSHOPping, I think from now on I shall have to write it as ‘work-shopping’.
Alternatively, I could take my brother’s advice: after all, carpenters and mechanics repair, build, fix and do all sorts of other things in their workshops, but they don’t actually workshop. Maybe I should simply avoid writing workshops and stick to ‘critique, commentary, creativity and discussion sessions’.
Of course I could then wonder about exactly what is meant by ‘critique’ and whether it shouldn’t be ‘criticism’ if it’s a noun, or ‘criticise’ if it’s a verb.