Home / Community Bloggers / Endangered Words

Endangered Words


Doesn’t  is already extinct in Youngstown, Ohio. It happened around 1976, as near as English majors can tell. The story goes that it was used for the last time at the Crystal Tavern in Fosterville when someone exclaimed “This is the best damned pizza I ever had, and anyone who doesn’t think so is a moron!”

Whereupon a man, just off his shift from the mill, yelled “don’t!”

The pizza enthusiast looked around and said, “Huh?”

“Anyone who DON’T think so is a moron.”

Doesn’t and saw have been added to the Endangered Words list.  Poachers are killing them at an astounding rate. I fear that soon we’ll never hear them used again. Though there are those who truly care and try to keep these words alive by using them as they were intended, generations to come will probably never say them. They will never know the joy of having doesn’t and saw roll off their tongues in a proper sentence.

Oh, saw will still be around, but only as a noun. Like the black-footed ferret, also on the endangered list, the word will remain, but not as the animal itself.  When all the ferrets are gone, we will still have the verb ferret, as in “an active and persistent searcher.” Likewise, we will still have the noun saw, as in “a hand or power tool used to cut hard material.”

People have been introducing invasive species like don’t and seen into our language, choking native words  out of existence, for many years now. Even educated people are killing them, without realizing the affect it has on those around them, not to mention future generations.  For example, your boss may say, “He don’t know exactly when the fax will be sent. I seen on my email that it’ll probably come between 4 and 5 today.”   It’s like a ripple in a polluted pond.

Those of us who are saddened by the slow death of saw and doesn’t daydream of wearing T-Shirts that say I am correcting your grammar in my head as you speak.  But to actually wear one would be rude.  We shouldn’t correct a superior while he’s talking, as that could be construed as insubordination, or worse, intelligence in a minion, totally upsetting the social order throughout the workplace.

Young people of the future will say, “We seen a movie about the Western Lowland Gorilla. It don’t exist no more!” Parents will beam with pride thinking how attentive their children are at school. (Any is on the Merely Vulnerable list because it’s slowly being choked out by no.)

A crucial piece of civilization dies every time a perfectly good word is culled from the language, never to be used again. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time for seen and don’t and no to be used incorrectly. Writers know that alterations in speech help to define characters in stories … just read anything by Cormac McCarthy. And song lyrics are made richer using invasive words. I mean, it wouldn’t sound right to hear, “I can’t get any satisfaction.”

In conclusion, I leave you with these beautiful words as they used to be known.

SAW (Genus)

1. To perceive by the eye; sight; to behold; to descry; to view.

I will now turn aside, and see the black-footed ferret.

Saw is the past tense form of “see.”  Saw can be used by itself, without a helping verb.  Isn’t THAT special? You saw the black-footed ferret.  I saw the stuffed dodo bird.

Seen is the past participle form of “see.”  Seen requires a helper verb, such as “have.”

You see? Seen needs HELP!

I have seen the spotted owl.  A coyote was seen in the park yesterday, eating a spotted owl.

It is never correct to use seen without a helper verb. I seen the movie Saw.       INCORRECT

DOESN’T (Genus)   CONTRACTION (Species)

  1. does not.

In English, don’t is used when speaking in the first and second person plural and singular and the third person plural. Say WHAT?

I don’t like tomatoes because they remind me of cat placenta.

You don’t want to go there dude.

We don’t want to wear pantyhose in this heat.

They don’t want to insist we wear pantyhose in this heat.

Doesn’t, on the other hand, is used when speaking in the third person singular only (“he,” “she,” and “it”).

He doesn’t like black-footed ferrets.

She doesn’t want to eat tomatoes.

It doesn’t look like the Borneo pygmy elephant will be around much longer. Deborah Klein

It don’t make no sense, but I seen it coming a long time ago. Sigh.

~written by Deborah Klein, Safety Harbor resident blogger


  1. Oh my Deb I love this. It is like nails on a black board to here the English slaughtered. I love your humor and reference to one of my favorite stomping grounds back in the 70’s. That would be the Crystal Tavern.
    Who would have known the little girl I baby sat had so much talent. Love you.

  2. Debbie, I love this so much I am going to share it with every writer I know. Also every person who wants one of those t-shirts. (Yeah, I want one, too.)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This div height required for enabling the sticky sidebar
Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views :