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Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda... Gonna?

[ Posted Monday, October 3rd, 2022 – 15:41 UTC ]

The Supreme Court began its new term today, Donald Trump just said publicly that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell "has a DEATH WISH," and President Joe Biden is touring Puerto Rico to see the damage caused by Hurricane Fiona (where he will not insultingly toss paper towel rolls at devastated Americans, one assumes). But I'm going to set all that aside for the moment and devote a column to grammar.

I've been thinking about this particular bugaboo for months now, because I have been noticing it with more and more frequency. But the subject remained on the back burner for me; something to be addressed perhaps on a slow day during the political "Silly Season." But under Biden, the Silly Seasons haven't been as silly and the national political media hasn't gotten completely unhinged over some ridiculous made-up "scandal" or another, so there was just no opportunity to write about this. But now I'm gonna.

If you cringed at the final word in the preceding paragraph (to say nothing of the headline), you are not alone. The Grammar Police urge is within us all, to varying degrees. And it is jarring, when you are expecting a fairly formal writing style, to come across a colloquial spelling such as "gonna."

Time was, such non-standard English spelling was reserved for a few specific occasions. Writing words as they actually sound (coulda, woulda, shoulda, gonna...) used to only happen when the speaker's accent was a notable quality in some important way. Usually, this was used in a derogatory fashion, or in fiction to give a character the proper tone. Mark Twain, for instance, wrote as his characters would have spoken. This included a whole lot of pidgin English. A few classic examples which have become cliché: "Thar's a-gonna be a shootout!" or: "Iffn' I don't laff, I thinks ahm a-gonna cry." Both (conveniently enough) include "gonna," instead of the proper "going to." Both are so heavily accented they come out as "a-gonna," as well.

Using non-traditional spelling was also used to portray a speaker as a hick, or a rube. In a word: stupid. Southern and Western American accents were often the prime targets for such portrayals. There are a number of stereotypes which were routinely portrayed in this fashion: Southern sheriffs (or just any random Southerner), hillbillies, Western prospectors, cowboys, as well as various assorted Texans and good ol' boys from all over. What was merely an accent for all of them became a way to portray them as uneducated and low-class.

Minorities also were at the receiving end of this as well. Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Jews, Italians, and too many others to list were routinely portrayed as having such thick accents as to be impenetrable by a proper-English-speaking person. Again, this was almost always done in derogatory fashion (and no, I'm not going to provide examples, as they are mostly too odious to repeat).

But now one of these colloquialisms has apparently made it into the style guides of the nation's journalists. Because it used to be routine and proper to spell out what a political speaker said -- no matter how much he or she slurred it when it was actually spoken -- so you'd read in the newspaper: "going to," no matter how it was actually pronounced. Now, however, it seems to be acceptable to use "gonna." This isn't just restricted to small publications with dubious editorial departments either, this phenomenon can now be found in the most prestigious media entities in America. Once pointed out, I would bet any casual reader of the news will spot a few of these within the next couple of days. Or perhaps I should say "coupla days"?

Thankfully, this seems limited (so far) to just the one phrase -- "gonna" for "going to." Which is somewhat odd, since if you're strictly transcribing the actual phonetics of how most people talk, there are all sorts of other elisions people use all the time. So far, all of them are still spelled out correctly in the news media, which comes as somewhat of a relief.

This just leaves me wondering why "gonna" has its own seemingly-special status in the media. Why pick this one? Why not the more-traditional "shoulda, coulda, woulda" trio? I have no clue, to tell you the truth.

News organizations aren't even all that consistent. Within the same article or transcript, the same speaker can be quoted saying "going to" mere seconds before another sentence uses "gonna." There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. Just sheer editorial laziness, perhaps?

There doesn't seem to be any malice behind it -- the misspelling is used not in a derogatory manner, but rather straightforwardly. It isn't used in a partisan fashion either, it is regularly used quoting politicians from both sides of the aisle. Politicians are routinely quoted saying "gonna," while the journalists still take the time to spell out "got to" and "you know" and "want to" (rather than "gotta," "y'know," or "wanna"). This writing standard used to only exist in the sports pages (quoting coaches and players), but now it has become acceptable anywhere, even in the most prestigious publications.

To me, this is a coarsening of standards that should not happen. There is a reason for using correct English in political debate -- even if it corrects a speaker's own linguistic shortcomings. It puts everyone on a level playing field. If the thickest accents are transcribed as if spoken from a diction coach, it means the words themselves are taken more seriously by the reader. There is no implied derision. Every speaker is equal if all their words are reported as if uttered correctly.

This doesn't preclude accurately transcribing what has now become known as a "word salad." When a speaker is obviously stumbling around searching for a way to say something, and instead says a whole bunch of disjointed nothing, that should be accurately reported. This spotlights someone who is inarticulate to the point of confusion -- which includes a lot of politicians. Sarah Palin and Donald Trump spring immediately to my mind, although to be fair, at times Kamala Harris tosses a few word salads of her own.

So I just wanted to reassure readers today that this column won't be letting our standards slip. Our personal stylebook has not changed. "Going to" will reign supreme here, with the exception of excerpts pasted in from other publications.

This really isn't some big moral stand, for us, though. It is merely avoiding cringeworthiness in our writing. Because whenever I see "gonna" in an article reporting what some politician says, it sticks out. I stumble over it, when reading. It jars. Which is why we won't subject our readers to this lowered standard.

To sum it all up: We can't control what others are gonna do, but rest assured, we certainly can control what we are going to do.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


24 Comments on “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda... Gonna?”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Oy va voy, dis gefilte fish has gone off!

  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:

    Looks like no Weigantian® can face how awesome the Republicans are gonna do in November, eh?? :D

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    Is the Left Losing the Left?
    In recent months, a handful of prominent liberals have displayed growing unease at the increasing totalitarianism of the far left—most notably in response to their attacks on free speech, censorship of their political opponents, and a series of media-contrived manipulations intended to sway public opinion. This under-the-radar development could be the first sign that, after years of monolithic uniformity among the left-wing news media, corporate leaders, and cultural elites, the unity of the progressive movement might be—at long last—starting to crack. Assuming the left’s authoritarian streak continues, the progressive movement may soon find that its once-loyal defenders are jumping ship.

    Talk show host Bill Maher, for instance—an outspoken leftist who for much of his career has toed the line of the Democrat Party—suggested the raid was a “political nightmare,” stating that it is “saving Trump politically” and making him into a “martyr” figure for conservatives. Maher’s statements are particularly significant given his well-established pattern of anti-Trump commentary and considering that the bulk of his audience is partisan Democrats. Notably, Maher has also been critical of the left’s embrace of radical gender ideology and their general “snobbiness.”

    But Maher’s statements only scratch the surface of the rising resistance to the Mar-a-Lago incident from a small but influential group on the left. Shadi Hamid, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, a prominent liberal think tank, has also sounded the alarm. In mid-August, he tweeted that he doesn’t “see any plausible scenario where [the raid] ends up being good for American democracy,” stating that there’s “no reason to celebrate it,” going on to mock “liberals’ sudden, unquestioning trust in law enforcement and the FBI” after years of left-wing skepticism toward federal law enforcement. “What grates when a large number of liberals talk about Trump is the unusual mix of utter self-righteousness and blatant hypocrisy,” he wrote. “Those cheering the Trump investigation on would never apply this same prosecutorial approach to their own side.”

    Hamid’s concerns were echoed by notable left-wing journalist Sasha Stone, once a self-proclaimed “true blue Democrat” who “voted faithfully” for Democrats “in every election”—including for Biden in 2020. Following the raid, however, she published a widely read blog post entitled “The Raid that Red-Pilled America,” in which she argued that “Americans have seen, maybe for the first time, that our government has become too powerful, too punitive, and too authoritarian in crushing dissenting voices and outsiders who challenge that authority.” She continued: “I am not MAGA. I am not a Conservative… But the red pill is a powerful one. Once you find your way out of the bubble of hysteria on the Left, it feels more like normal life.”

    This is exactly what happens when PTDS (President Trump Derangement Syndrome) takes hold...

    We see it happening in the country and we see it happening here in Weigantia®..

    If I could go back in time and tell 2005 CW that the 2022 Weigantia® moderator would have a contest to see who could come up the best 3rd grade school yard derogatory name to call the President Of The United States, the old CW would have thought me to be a loon..

    If I could show 2005 CW the kinds of actions that the current Weigantia® moderator supports, condones and encourages in this country and in Weigantia®, 2005 CW would be aghast...

    If I could show 2005 CW that the 2022 Weigantia® moderator has nearly every-day commentaries about a POTUS that left office over a year ago??? 2005 CW would be abhorred...

    I guess ya'all Trump/America haters here in Weigantia® can take some sort of solace :eyeroll: in the fact that ya'all are pretty much the norm in ya'all's Democrat Party..


  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    Austin mayor slammed by police advocates for falling asleep during fallen officer's funeral
    'I want to express my deepest apologies to the family of Officer Martin,' Austin Mayor Steve Adler said

    The Cop Hate Democrat Party in all it's ahem... 'glory'..

    That's how the Cop Hate Party shows it's respect for LEOs...

    By falling asleep at the funeral of an LEO... :eyeroll:

  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    Crap... Reposted for clarity

    Austin mayor slammed by police advocates for falling asleep during fallen officer's funeral
    'I want to express my deepest apologies to the family of Officer Martin,' Austin Mayor Steve Adler said

    The Cop Hate Democrat Party in all it's ahem... 'glory'..

    That's how the Cop Hate Party shows it's respect for LEOs...

    By falling asleep at the funeral of an LEO... :eyeroll:

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    Biden White House effort to spin 'Where's Jackie' gaffe raises media eyebrows: 'People were taken aback'

    White House reporter says Biden aides dodge mental acuity issues: 'Appear clueless or even offended when you ask about it'

    Jean Claude Damn's continued insistence that Dementia Biden didn't make any mistake when he looked around for a deceased congress critter is simply proving over and over how bad and how incompetent this administration really is...

  7. [7] 
    Michale wrote:

    "I think people were taken aback because the gaffe was not the real egregious part. It was the subsequent insistence that he hadn't made a gaffe. And rather than just saying, ‘Hey, he made a mistake, like we all do,' I mean, they just seem to make it worse again and again… It certainly wasn't a high point. When you see that cascade effect, that shows reporters are onto something."
    -White House Reporter

    It's obvious that Biden is riddled with senility and dementia...

    The mere fact that White House staffers are trying to hide this, to bury it proves that this is a bigger issue than staffers want to admit...

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    Crime Surge and Fetterman's Pardons Give the GOP Hope in Pennsylvania

    This is why Democrats are going to get their asses handed to them in November...

    The Democrat Party = The Pro Criminal/Hate Victim Party...


  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    Yet, as the most recent polls show, Oz has edged back into contention. The Democrats' late summer upswing may turn out to be fool's gold in what was always going to be a bad year for the party in power. The Pennsylvania Senate race may actually be decided by an issue that ought to scare Democrats across the nation. A surge in crime, and murder in particular, has become impossible to ignore—and Oz's opponent, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, has embraced the cause of releasing murderers from prison.

    When it comes to criminals and law and order, Democrats lose to the GOP BIG TIME..

    The Democrat Party is the Party of lenient sentences for violent criminals, no-bail for violent criminals and hate/defunding the cops...

    How ya'all thought that Democrats had a snowball's chance in hell of prevailing in 34 days simply defies all logic and reason..

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    Supremes gone wild: Thought the high court was bad already? Just you wait!

    Gutting abortion rights and the EPA wasn't enough. Now the Supreme Court goes for the big prize: Ending democracy

    Today's Democrat Party...

    Hysterical fact-less fear mongering.. :eyeroll:

  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    OK We'll leave it at an even 10 and let everyone else catch up.. :D

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    Holy carp!! I just realized..

    Liz isn't around any more and there was no Sunday Music fest??

    Did Liz finally get tired of all the progressive Democrat Hate America Hate Cops BS???

    Wouldn't surprise me whatsoever...

  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    And in the BWWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA Department..

    Man makes $21,000 selling 3D-printed guns during NY AG gun buyback program

    The man drove six hours to turn in the parts he made on a $200 3D printer

    Democrats' hysterical anti-gun crap is useless.... Does NOTHING whatsoever to actually address violent crime...

  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:

    RIP Loretta Lynn

    Was never much of a fan, but her mark on Americana is undeniable...

  15. [15] 
    Michale wrote:

    I'm with JFC on this one and I agree that JSOW (aka Michale) split because of the changing political environment -- just like right before the 2018 Midterms his feelings got hurt so he split.

    Don't miss the douchebag at all. Without the buffoon trolls polluting Weigantia maybe we can get some real Conservatives to join us down here.

    So, using MC's drug-induced reasoning, he is not posting here because Democrats are, once again, in a downward spiral...

    Down, down, down to irrelevancy... :D

  16. [16] 
    Michale wrote:

    When Mr. Fetterman was the mayor of Braddock, Pa., he brandished a shotgun to stop and detain an unarmed Black jogger, telling police he had heard gunshots and saw the man running, according to the police report.

    Don'tcha just LOVE the Democrat double-standards?? :eyeroll:

  17. [17] 
    Michale wrote:

    Pelosi predicts Democrats will keep the House after November’s midterms

    Pelosi just as delusional as our own MC here.. :D


    Unless Pelosi knows that Democrats are planning to cheat again to fraudulently win another election..

    Don't think that's gonna happen.. No more ZuckerBucks.. No more buying entire county election boards.. No more fantasy mail in ballots...

  18. [18] 
    Michale wrote:

    Yunno what.. I'll throw ya'all a bone here..

    Even IF the Dims somehow manage to hold onto the Senate.... It's not going to happen no way but just supposing....

    Dementia Biden and all the are Dim crooks are STILL going to have to deal with all the hundreds of investigations that the GOP House starts..

    Not to mention, the monthly impeachments of Dementia Biden...

    So, even if by some miraculous impossible quirk of fate, the Dims keep the Senate.. It's STILL going to be a lot of fun seeing all the crimes and such coming out about Democrats.. :D

  19. [19] 
    Michale wrote:

    'Black Lives Matter was a scam,' says Kanye West after White Lives Matter shirt goes viral

    West debuted his "White Lives Matter" shirt at a Yeezy show in Paris

    And in other searing news flashes, it is learned that water is wet, the sky is blue and women have secrets..

    OF COURSE Black Lives Matter was a SCAM... That was obvious since Day 1 to anyone with more than 2 brain cells to rub together...

  20. [20] 
    Michale wrote:

    October Surprise...

    OPEC’s October Oil Surprise

    A couple of months ago Mr. Biden sojourned to Saudi Arabia to beg the Crown Prince for help containing surging U.S. gasoline prices. Now it looks like the meeting was worse than unproductive. Reports say OPEC and its allies including Russia will consider slashing their production targets by a million barrels a day when they meet this week.

    Gasoline prices will rise again if the Saudis slash production. But Biden policies mean U.S. production won’t be able to make up the difference.

    So, Dementia Biden throw's America's Energy Independence out the window...

    Then has to crawl back to Saudi to ask for more oil..

    And EVEN THEN, the Saudis give Dementia Biden the finger and gives Democrats an October Surprise that will simply BURY Democrats in the election.. :D

    doo doo da doo doo do... Lovin it! :D

  21. [21] 
    Michale wrote:

    And, once again, ya'all appear to need to catch yer breath to catch up..

    OK... I'll allow it.. :D

  22. [22] 
    Michale wrote:

    Well, it looks like the Michale Show here.. :D

    Kewl... :D

  23. [23] 
    Michale wrote:

    Democrat mayor shits on fallen police officer's widow..

    Fallen Austin police officer's widow says she's 'crushed' by Mayor Adler falling asleep at funeral

    Photos surfaced of the Austin mayor appearing to sleep at Monday's funeral for a fallen officer

    The Democrat Party...

    The Cop Hate Party....

  24. [24] 
    Michale wrote:


    Captain Terry Arnold
    Cook County Sheriff's Office, Georgia
    End of Watch: Monday, October 3, 2022

    And remind the few...
    When ill of us they speak..
    That we are all that stands between..
    The monsters and the weak...

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