Aug 5, 2012

English Lesson

by Marsha Ward

I haven't quite let The Curmudgeon out, because I have a headache that wouldn't be improved by his roaring and carrying on. However, I've seen, in the last couple of years, a serious misuse of the word sells as a noun, so I decided to investigate it.

It turns out that I've already written somewhat about the word, and have even given definitions. My quibble is when I see or hear people referring to their "book sells."

People, there is no such thing!!! The word sells is a VERB, and this means action is going on.

"He sells a lot of books, doesn't he." VERB, VERB, VERB!
"Yes, he's so charming, folks line up around the store to get his signature and a chance to bat their eyelashes at him."

"He claims his book sales are through the roof." NOUN, NOUN, NOUN!
"Yeah, but he got his e-books out very early, and he keeps writing new ones, so you can't dispute his numbers."

I've come to the conclusion that the conversion of sales to sells is due to a regional accent thing going on. The mistaken hearer has begun to use what they think is a genuine word, both in speech and in writing.

This is understandable. I once knew a woman who was convinced that "ja" was the same thing as "yes." I look back on that period of time with fondness, especially since no one copied her regional accent into actual usage.

If you've been writing or talking about your book sells, I will copy a term from a beloved church leader and say, 

"Stop it!"

Thank you. I feel much better now.


  1. Wait, are we talking about possibly a matter of mistaken word identity due to an unfortunate accent? I visited my parents in Utah recently and they kept quoting "Brother Hells." At first I thought, "I think they mean brother Hales," but it was pronounced "Hells" so often that I actually leaned over to ask someone how they spelled the last name of this person. Maybe they're saying "Sales" but it just sounds like "Sells."

  2. LOL! Thank you Marsha! I have seen "sells" written so many times when the writer meant "sales"...and I is an accent thing. I noticed in Utah that people say "fur" when they are using the word "for" and "Pell" for "pill", etc. I am guilty of dropping "t" in words like mountain and saying "crick" instead of "creek"...and "ruff" instead of "roof". But most of those don't end up being spelled differently. I wonder why "sales" does.

  3. Oh, Marsha. THANK YOU so much for writing this. Ever since I moved to Utah, the language here has frustrated me. I have to translate in my brain before I can understand what exactly people are trying to say here. Then, when they actually write the way they say something, like sells instead of sales. Dont' get me started.
    Like, someone was bearing their testimony about having a filling and I wondered why they would talk about their dental work in a testimony. Yet, instead of saying pink (short a), they say peenk (long E). It's all backwards here.
    The clincher came when someone in the bishopric announced the song "We'll Sing All Hell to Jesus Name." Even the Utahns balked at that one. Good times here. :)
    But I LOVE Utah. Glad to be here. I just have to translate, but most of the time, by the time I get what they said, I'm already two sentences behind. *sigh*

  4. Where we used to live (rural Utah) a local eatery advertised on the radio that at their establishment you could get a "full mill dill."


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