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Thread: The Linguistics of the Clay Bar: It's Time to Correct our Spelling

          
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    Detailing Dunce akimel's Avatar
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    The Linguistics of the Clay Bar: It's Time to Correct our Spelling

    The growing use of the clay bar has generated, and is generating, additions to English vocabulary, at least within the tiny detailing universe. First was the creation of the compound noun clay bar. With the creation of this noun came the need for a verb to designate the use of the clay bar. The most common word used within the linguistic world of detailing is the verb clay. For example, from the Meguiar's website:

    To remove these bonded contaminants and bring back that "smooth-as-glass" finish, this will require an extra step, prior to polishing and waxing, commonly referred to as "claying". By utilizing Meguiar's Smooth Surface Clay Kit, you can, in less than 30 minutes, clay an entire vehicle, giving it back that "smooth-as-glass" feel.
    From the AutoGeek website:

    There’s a simple test that will indicate whether or not you need to clay.
    From the Autopia website:

    When you're finished claying your car, you may need to wash it to remove the lubricant film.
    And with the creation of the verb to clay there also has arisen the creation of the gerund claying. For example, from the Polished Bliss website:

    According to clay bar manufacturers, claying should completely strip existing wax or sealant protection. However, in our experience, some of the latest sealants on the market seem to be able to withstand claying.
    So far so good, yet apparently detailing speakers find these new words imprecise, for we also find in popular detailing discourse a desire to disambiguate the verbal form by the inclusion of the word bar: i.e., to clay bar. For example, one video on the use of the clay bar is titled "How to Clay Bar." Through a Google search I found the following from among many examples:

    I just clay barred my car today for the first time ever, man what a work out!

    When I clay barred my hood, it didn't remove the water spot looking marks.

    If you've never clay-barred your ride, take a moment to run your hand across the paint.

    I clay bared my rims the best i could.

    I clay bared and waxed my car then took some pictures.

    Once you have clay bared your car rinse it off.

    After I clay bared it felt smooth.
    Ditto for the gerund:

    If polishing is not needed to remove defects then a light cleanser can be applied after clay barring, then a wax or sealant applied to lock the beauty.

    There is simply tons of real good information out there on clay barring.

    Clay baring does not damage paint, only unskillful or careless clay bar users damage paint!

    I have been kicking around the idea of clay baring my car.
    There is nothing surprising in the above. This is how new words are introduced into vocabulary. But did you notice the spelling? Some folks prefer a double "r" and others prefer a single "r": "I clay barred my car today" versus "I clay bared my car today." Similarly for the gerund form: "Clay barring does not damage paint" versus "Clay baring does not damage paint."

    Two different spellings--which one is correct, or are both correct? While one rightly hesitates to prescribe usage when usage is still in flux, I will risk both correction and derision and assert that the use of the single "r" in these situations is linguistically wrong. The incorrectness is obvious just by looking at the words. Take the word baring all by itself. How does one correctly pronounce it? How do you pronounce it? I'm confident that everyone reading this article pronounces it "bair-ing" or "bear-ing." Nobody pronounces it "bahr-ing." And that is the point.

    Consider the noun tar. The dictionary stipulates that this noun specifies "dark-colored viscid products obtained by the destructive distillation of certain organic substances, as coal or wood." The word may also be used as a verb that is directly related to its nominal meaning: "to smear or cover with or as if with tar." And the verb is pronounced identically to the noun: the vocalization of the noun is carried over into the vocalization of the verb. If it were not, we would not know that the activity of tarring is related to the substance tar. But note the spelling when we use the word as a gerund: tarring is spelled with two "r's," as is the past tense of the verb, tarred. It is spelled with two "r's" in order to preserve the pronunciational relationship between the words: tar(tahr)/tarring(tahr-ing); tar(tahr)/tarred(tahrd). What would happen if were to instead spell the gerundial form as taring, for example? How would we pronounce it if we were to see it for the first time? We would no doubt pronounce it as "tair-ing," just as we would pronounce taired as "taird." We may not know what taring and taired mean, but we would probably guess that both have something to do with the word tare.

    Now consider the word bar, pronounced "bahr." The word is pronounced the same whether used as a noun or a verb, but when written in its gerundial and past tense forms, a second "r" is added: barring, barred. Nothing is changed if we add the word clay to make a compound noun or verb. The same linguistic dynamics are at work. If we want to make clay bar into a verb, which some people clearly want to do, then we will add a second "r" when we use it as a gerund (clay barring) or past tense verb (clay barred).

    So why do some want to write clay baring or clay bared? I'm not sure, but I suspect it has to do with the fact that in detailing writing the compound verb has yet to become a simple verb. Eventually clay bar will become claybar, perhaps preceded in usage by a hyphenated form (i.e., clay-bar, clay-barring, clay-barred); but this has not yet happened. Once it does happen, the need for the double "r" will become apparent. Meanwhile we need to remember this rule: when we make a noun into a verb, we retain the sound of the noun in order to maintain the semantic connection between noun and verb; consequently we need to add an extra "r" when needed. I recently posed this question of the spelling of clay bar to an old friend and retired professor of linguistics. He replied: "The point is to preserve the original base pronunciation of [baHr], not to create [beyr], as in "bear" or "bare," so as not to change the meaning."

    I thus propose the following prescription for detailing discourse: don't forget the extra "r" when you are clay-barring your car. You don’t want to find yourself baring it for all to see.

    One more suggestion: if you want to use clay bar as a verb or gerund, add the hyphen:

    When you clay-bar your car, don't forget to use a clay bar.

    I clay-barred my car yesterday and removed all bonded contaminants.

    Clay-barring is absolutely safe for your car, as long as you use plenty of lubricant.
    Adding the hyphen will make reading much easier for everyone.

    And if that seems too complicated, just stick to the word clay. Claying your car is just as easy as clay-barring it.

    Cheers,
    Al
    Last edited by akimel; Jan 26th, 2009 at 08:48 PM.
    Swirls hide in the black molecular depths, only waiting for the right time to emerge and destroy your sanity.
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    Global Product & Training Spec Michael Stoops's Avatar
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    Re: The Linguistics of the Clay Bar: It's Time to Correct our Spelling

    A very extensive write up, and quite the education there, Al. Thanks for doing this.

    Good news! I checked with weather.com and it seems the temperatures in and around Roanoke, VA should be warming up in a few weeks and you can get back outside and do some work on your car instead of huddling inside, apparently a bit bored.


    Michael Stoops
    Senior Global Product & Training Specialist | Meguiar's Inc.

    Remember, this hobby is supposed to be your therapy, not the reason you need therapy.

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    Registered Member Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: The Linguistics of the Clay Bar: It's Time to Correct our Spelling

    Great documentation from your research.

    Good wordsmithing...


    Mike Phillips
    Office: 800-869-3011 x206
    Mike.Phillips@Autogeek.net
    "Find something you like and use it often"

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    Detailing Dunce akimel's Avatar
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    Re: The Linguistics of the Clay Bar: It's Time to Correct our Spelling

    Clearly I have too much time on my hands.
    Swirls hide in the black molecular depths, only waiting for the right time to emerge and destroy your sanity.
    --Al Kimel

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    Registered Member Malo83's Avatar
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    Re: The Linguistics of the Clay Bar: It's Time to Correct our Spelling


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    Pro/Marine/RV Product Manager Mark Kleis's Avatar
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    Re: The Linguistics of the Clay Bar: It's Time to Correct our Spelling

    Quote Originally Posted by akimel View Post
    Clearly I have too much time on my hands.
    You beat me to it- that's what I was going to post Al!
    Meguiar's Professional, Marine/RV Global Product Manager
    My ride: 2014 Ford Focus ST, 6 Speed, Race Red
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    Avatar Czar Ryan L.'s Avatar
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    Re: The Linguistics of the Clay Bar: It's Time to Correct our Spelling

    Wanna work on the Database for me? I think you have more time than I do...

    Cool read though!

    Ryan
    Attack life, it's going to kill you anyway.

    This is your life. Choose to live it to the fullest.

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    Fire Dept. Detailer Carfire's Avatar
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    Re: The Linguistics of the Clay Bar: It's Time to Correct our Spelling

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan L. View Post
    Wanna work on the Database for me? I think you have more time than I do...

    Cool read though!

    Ryan




    Great Write Up!!
    I'm Sure that took you a loong time!!
    Nice Work!!
    Joel
    Firefighter/EMT-B
    Rejuvenation Auto Detailing
    "Satisfaction Guaranteed or Your Dirt Back!!!"
    '99 F-150

  9. #9
    Perfection is my Passion sstg's Avatar
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    Re: The Linguistics of the Clay Bar: It's Time to Correct our Spelling

    Too funny.

  10. #10
    aka: 23jam J. A. Michaels's Avatar
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    Re: The Linguistics of the Clay Bar: It's Time to Correct our Spelling

    Great write up. To think I was spelling it correctly. I feel much better now. Good reading. Thanks again.
    quality creates its own demand

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