Parkour Grammar

Alright, here I go again down the rabbit hole of parkour grammar.

In one of my previous posts, 5 Things Not to Say to Someone Who Practices Parkour, I touched upon how parkour is an irregular verb and why me calling someone who trains parkour a parkourer was just plain wrong.  Well, I may, in fact, have got it wrong again.

If you aren’t a language nerd like me, this might not be nearly as exciting, but it turns out that parkour seems to be exclusively used as a noun, and robustly resists derivation to another part of speech category, a process referred to as functional shift.

Why is this important? Well, if you love language like me, then going through various sentence types and evaluating what category of speech a word seems to belong to is utterly fascinating. On a more practical level though, as a girlfriend of someone who trains parkour, it’s good to understand how language surrounding parkour should and shouldn’t be used.

First of all, parkour is not a verb, as shown in the following examples:

  • Resists the -ing ending of a progressive verb
    • We will be parkouring later if you want to join us
    • We will be training later if you want to join us ✓
  • Cannot be used as an infinitive verb
    • Do you want to come parkour with us? X
    • Do you want to come train with us? ✓
  • The word ‘do’ cannot be used to support parkour as a verb
    • We should parkour together soon. X
    • We should do parkour together soon. X
    • We should train parkour together soon. ✓
    • We should practice parkour together soon. ✓
  • Cannot be conjugated in the past tense:
    • She parkoured down the street. X
    • She did a line down the street. ✓

Parkour is also not an adjective, as demonstrated by the ungrammaticality of attaching the comparative -er or superlative -est endings to the root:

  • That was a parkourer flip than last week. X
  • That’s the parkourest flip I’ve seen all week. X

In fact, the word parkour does not seem to carry any descriptive value:

  • She parkours better than him. X

Parkour refers to human movement in no particular sequence. Thus, this sentence is essentially read as, “She is better at human movement than he is,” giving no concrete comparative measure.

In short, parkour is a noun used to refer to the practice of physical movement that tests one’s physical and mental limitations. It cannot be done, or taught, or learned better or worse than anyone. Literally in the words of Max Henry, “Parkour can only be discovered.”

On a bit of a side note, I learned that most trainers do not reference the indoor location where they train as a parkour gym. Within the community, it is assumed that if you are going to the gym, you are training parkour, so it’s almost redundant to specify. I don’t know if this means that no parkour practitioners go to the weightlifting gym, but if you tell someone who trains parkour that you’re going to the gym, they’ll likely say, “Hey, I’ll come with you!” and fully expect to be at a parkour gym.

Until next time, remember, in the words of David Belle, “Obstacles are found everywhere, and in overcoming them we nourish ourselves.”

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