winging it postI overheard someone talking today about winging it when she put together her Fantasy Football team. Describing this to a friend, she claimed she “wung it.”

I’m walked by just as she said it, and thought to myself, “Wung?”

The phrase “winging it” comes from the theater, when actors would learn their lines in the wings before heading onstage to deliver them. (Similarly, “waiting in the wings” i.e., patiently waiting for an opportunity, comes from those same stage wings.)

“Winging it” was done very last minute–typically because the actor had just been assigned the part—which is where the hurried and haphazard meaning enters the phrase.

But the past tense of “wing it” is winged, not wung. At least, not yet.

Language is a living, breathing thing. Trendy words certainly come and go, but for new circumstances, new concepts altogether, we coin a new term or phrase. We’re not inventing new words in lieu of the chance to string together existing words into interesting and unique ways. If that were the case, new words would be born out of laziness. No, language changes not so much with the times but with the need.

I’m always tickled when I figure out a new way of wording something or create a new descriptive term. These are usually the times when my friends raise their eyebrows corrected enough grammar that they can’t wait to catch me saying something wrong. In my mind, I tell fun grammar stories that everyone can enjoy.)

When asked that question, I always respond with, “Of course it’s a word. I just said it.” As if all one needed was to use a word in order for it to come into being. Oh, wait, that’s kinda how it works. We’re in charge of our own language, our own ability to communicate. These are powerful things, indeed.

So, perhaps the day will come when we introduce “wung” properly to the world. Until then, the past tense is still just winged, and we have theater to thank for it.

Theater’s ability to influence language is just one aspect of its great role in our lives. The Oxford English Dictionary says the phrase “winging it” has been used since 1885, which means we’ve been winging it for quite some time.

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Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

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