Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt
Think about concrete for a second, even if you weren’t already thinking about it. Can you picture it? Can you feel its hardness? Do you see a driveway, sidewalk or building in your mind? Concrete is solid. I promise I’m not being paid by the big concrete lobby or anything (although I’d be open to laying the foundation for a strong relationship).
When we talk about concrete as a noun, we think about driveways. As an adjective, concrete is anything you can experience using your five senses; it’s the opposite of abstract. Something that is abstract doesn’t exist in material form. Today, we’re tackling abstract and concrete nouns.
Remember how a noun is a “person, place, thing or idea?” The first three are easy; they fall into the territory of “concrete” nouns. Only when we get into the “idea” category do things get dicey. Abstract nouns are things like freedom and love. You can’t buy a scented version of an abstract noun at Yankee Candle.
I suppose you could buy a candle that smelled like freshly poured concrete. Is concrete considered “cement” when it’s wet and only becomes concrete when it hardens? Is it like magma and lava or bread and toast? These are the things that keep me up at night. You could obviously buy an apple pie or pumpkin spice candle. But you can’t bottle “wisdom” or even taste “disappointment.” Try as they might, the scent scientists at the Yankee Candle laboratory couldn’t candleize an abstract noun even if they burned the candle at both ends.
To help you remember abstract nouns, know that they fall into the following categories: feelings, states, emotions, qualities, concepts, ideas and events. This accounts for everything from stress to faith to democracy. I’d like to see those wax nerds try to put an abstract noun like “pessimism” into candle form.
Here are some concrete nouns you may think are abstract. Although untouchable, rainbows are concrete (you can see them). Even though it’s invisible, noise is concrete (you can hear it). Is this starting to make sense?
The next time you play Mad Libs on a road trip, I dare you to use only abstract nouns in your game. Like abstract nouns, it will be full of total nonsense.