Now that the election is over, I can say it

“Well-paying jobs” must be stricken from American English. It is a phrase that makes no grammatical sense whatsoever.

“Paying” is a gerund, a linguistic sleight of hand that turns a noun (or an adjective) into a verb. The problem with this? Um, pay is a verb. Paying is also considered the present tense of the verb “to pay,” but only in specific cases, and it usually requires a helper verb (He *is* paying the rent vs He pays the rent.).

There’s no real reason to create a gerund from a verb, unless you are among those who believe that extra syllables make a word more important (utilize and use don’t actually mean the same thing, for example, although many people use them interchangeably; these are normally the people who opt for the longer word).

So, now that the proverbial “they” have made a verb out of…a verb, these folks then proceed to turn it into a compound adjective by applying the adverb “well” with a hyphen — when they actually remember the hyphen, but that’s a different issue.

The net result is a construction that sounds off when spoken and looks off when written. Why? Because of the double-sex-change of the verb to try to make it sound present-tense (a verb thing) when acting as an adjective (which, like the honey badger, don’t care). See? This is why it makes no sense.

What is a “well-paying job” anyway? Logically, it’s a job that pays well. I would consider a person who has a job that pays well to be well paid, wouldn’t you?

Oh look, there’s the construction the media and politicians should have been using for the last two years: “well-paid jobs.”

That’s definitely it, because “well-paid jobs” doesn’t make my inner grammarian cringe. There, I said it. And I have no regrets.

1 comment so far

  1. Mom on

    So funny! We all had to suffer through those firey speeches and campaign ads in our own way. I will personally pledge to never string “well-paying-jobs” together again. My small gift to you as I openly applaud your restraint. This election didnt need another battleground. And, gerund usage would have been some perfect fuel for the nutty firestorm. Phew! Glad its over

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