Where is this Place Called 'Missing?'

Dec 14, 2011

When did we let the media hijack our language?

It must have been television newscasters - second only to sports radio in mangling the language - that one day decided that people no longer disappear.  They “go missing.”  Go missing?  How can that be?  To disappear is to cease to appear.  To vanish.  Isn’t that the case when somebody, uh . . . disappears?

Missing does indeed, mean absent, lost, not present.  So, to say that Charlie is missing is fine.  But to say Charlie has GONE missing or went missing?  How does that make sense?  

Gone is the past participle – you remember past participles – of the verb “go.”  Is to say Charlie went missing as much as to say Charlie went fishing or that he has gone to the movie?  Fishing is a noun.  Movie is a noun.  But missing is an adjective.  You don’t go to an adjective.

If you grew up even as late as before the Year Two-Thousand things like gone missing and went missing hurt your ears.  They’re mindless phrases muttered mindlessly.  This is as good a battlefield as any on which to regain some ground in the fight for our language.

Protest.  E-mail every TV station in town.  Tell them you won’t take it any more, or you will disappear from its news audience.   


John Malmo is a marketing consultant who concentrates on helping business owners grow their businesses with effective marketing.  To reach Mr. Malmo, hear and read more of his commentaries, or to ask him your own marketing question, go to http://askmalmo.com.