Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Greatest Wordsmith of Them All


Hunter Thompson reading.











My husband is reading Bill Bryson's short work on Shakespeare and the most interesting fact so far is that Will invented more than 2000 words and countless phrases: frugal, antipathy, artificial, horrid, vast, critical, assassination, zany.
I've never invented a word and don't know many people who have. Is the language too well-developed for many new words? Technology brings new words and terms into use, but Will did it to describe everyday things. Maybe before most people wrote or read, fewer words sufficed.
Have you ever invented a word? Is there something that needs a word invented to describe it?
My son invented the word nickadiddy at age two to describe what happens when part of the heel of your shoe is turned down after putting your foot into it.
That's the Abbott contribution to the language-but only the Abbotts are aware of it.

25 comments:

ARCHAVIST said...

Kermodian is now an official new word. It comes from the film critic Mark Kermode who has a in your face style. It was recently used in Irish parliment when a mp said - I'm not going into a Kermodian rant. But as for inventing words I think only Lewis Carrol came close - chortle is one of his which is a mixture of chuckle and snort.
Etymology is an interesting mixture.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, thanks. That's interesting. I wonder if it will jump the pond since we don't know him here. Chortle, huh? I wonder how recent the word "rant" is.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've invented most of a whole new language for my Taleran books. Does that count?

None have gotten to be everyday words yet. Sigh!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Wow! That does count. What was the first word of the language? Interesting to see what comes first.

Todd Mason said...

Then there's the question of how many words Shakespeare invented, versus how many have their earliest surviving record in his works.

There are always new words for new needs and flavors...any child could invent "snarge."

pattinase (abbott) said...

Well, that's a good question. I'll see what my husband has to say.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yep, you're right--- first recorded use of the words. He may have created them. He used local slang and colloquialisms for the first time. Even his first two plays used 140 new words between them.

Todd Mason said...

Or, from our perspective, possibly new words. Earliest known citations are only that...

Cormac Brown said...

My son loves the Sniglets from "Not Necessarily The News" that I could find on the Internet, I'll have to hunt down the book one of these days.

How about "Pattitastic?"

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sniglets? That must have been post-my kids. I'll check it out. Maybe our grandson will prefer it to THe Wiggles.

Todd Mason said...

Sniglets aim a bit older than the Wiggles do...Rich Hall made a rich haul with this wordplay gimmick, on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and elsewhere, in the '80s...

John McFetridge said...

Douglas Adams and John Lloyd wrote a great book called The Meaning of Liff.

Here, from the Wikipedia description:

It is a "dictionary of things that there aren't any words for yet"; all the words listed are place names, and describe common feelings and objects for which there is no current English word. Examples are Shoeburyness ("The vague uncomfortable feeling you get when sitting on a seat which is still warm from somebody else's bottom") and Abinger ("One who washes up everything except the frying pan, the cheese grater and the saucepan which the chocolate sauce has been made in").

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, I like both of those. Yes, we could easily have double the words currently in use.

Sepiru Chris said...

Hello Pattinase,

I am not sure if eponyms like kermodian, quisling, or gradgrind should count, per se, but maybe they should if you have created the character (like Charles Dickens did with Thomas Gradgrind in Hard Times).

The Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (nom de plume Lewis Carroll) came up with some great ones, such as most of Jabberwocky, although most did not make their way into widespread use.

The great thing about English, in my view, is that we are always creating new words, as compared to say, the French who are always officially throwing words out of the language, each year in fact.

One newish word that has gained universal use in English is genocide.

Genocide was coined in 1944 by legal scholar Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust, initially in an essay about the massacre of Assyrians in Iraq in 1933.

The sciences, including social sciences, create words frequently to explain new concepts or actions.

My wife and I create fake languages and try to explain things to the other, and trip the other up, with these constantly mutating and evolving languages.

Yet even great words like murgalicious (the state of being slighty grumpelicious in the morning due to overbright Daystar radiation, and unending spousal chatter, interfering with the body's ability to maintain a sleeping state for as long as the body would otherwise remain in that state) that we have invented have just not caught on.

Go figure.

(Hopefully grumpelicious will catch on...)

Tschuess,
Chris

pattinase (abbott) said...

Chris-I can well imagine you creating new worlds, not just new words.

George said...

How about the new word "pattizipper" which means "to sew someone's pockets shut."

Paul D.Brazill said...

Cracking stuff, this. (Bryson's 'Troublsome Words,' by the way, is a book that i tout to many who enjoy language.) One thing my girlfiend alway comments on is that I say hoover as a verb. even when I' using another brand of vaccume cleaner.the english lanuage morphs and twist always, which is part of it's pleasure...the douglas admas riff is rather smashng, isn't it?

Paul D.Brazill said...

Oh, chris, 'quisling 'is I word I've known since i was a kid-and i'm well past my sell by date- so it is, i think, a real word. A recent expression that I love is 'frocksploitation film'coined by the great Kim Newman to describe mercant/ivory films et al..

pattinase (abbott) said...

I love hoover as a verb. It makes perfect sense.
Zippered Patti would make more sense.

Sepiru Chris said...

Paul D. Brazill,

I agree wholeheartedly with you that eponyms are words. I just do not think that the people whom they are eponyms because of ought to get credit for them.

Put another way, the eponymous men and women ought not to be credited with creating them, I felt.

As I tend to do, however, I wrote a post instead of a reply (thank goodness for the preview button before publishing, or Pattinase might have handed me my head). The post shows up tomorrow, Tuesday 20 Jan, 9:00 am Hong Kong time.

Tschuess,
Chris

pattinase (abbott) said...

I'll be there Chris.

Barrie said...

I wonder what the rules are for inventing a word? I mean, does it have to be around a certain length of time, used in so many places...before it's added to the dictionary? I do like nickadiddy!

Todd Mason said...

Lexicographers, sometimes overruled by their editors or publishers, usually set their own rules for when words are added to their dictionaries.

Juri said...

Cyborgy. (Kyborgiat in "Finnish".) This was when I was in a movie club and we put a late night show with movies like Total Recall that had something to do with cybernetics, and since there were four of them, I said it's like an orgy - hence cyborgy. At least in Finland I invented it. I've never googled it, so I don't know about the US or England.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Juri-So clever and a perfect description.