Yes, That IS a ‘Real Word’

I don’t always use my vocabulary to its greatest extent, but I’ve definitely been the that lady people have arched an eyebrow at when I used the right word, and they thought I was using a ten-cent word to sound superior. Sometimes, I just like to be precise.

I like words. I like knowing the connotations that distinguish different options in my thesaurus.

I’m what you might call an amateur etymologist — a person who studies words, their meanings, and the history behind them. I’m a huge fan of the website etymonline.com (just be sure not to confuse me with the bug-loving entomologists.)

For the whole of society, people have been continually creating new words, when the ones they had just wouldn’t do. We see it every day with new technologies and new slang. Tons of the so-called greats they teach you in English literature have done it. From Dickens, to Milton, to the ever-famous-for-it Shakespeare.

Now, I’m sure there are experts that will argue with me. And I know the French are quite particular about allowing new words into their language.

But, for me? If you use a word, and people can understand from the context what you intended, it’s a word.

Maybe they can tell because they recognize the root word that you’ve just verbified.

Maybe they can tell because because your actions demonstrated its meaning.

Science-fiction and fantasy writers often find themselves inventing dozens of terms for their magic or technological systems.

But, you don’t have to be in a make-believe world for a made up word to have meaning.

Language exists to convey a thought — a concept. If you’ve successfully conveyed your meaning, that’s all it takes for a word to be real. At least to me.


What’s your opinion on created words? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Can’t live without them?

Do you have any favorites?

4 Comments

  1. Nice piece. Sometimes the “right” word doesn’t have to be the fancy word. I use James Baldwin as an example. In describing a scene at a funeral he says the coffin was covered with “earth.” He could have said “dirt.” But, in this case, covered with “earth” gives you the exact visceral feeling he was seeking. Earth. A common, even everyday, word. But, in this case, it’s also the perfect word. Thanks for sharing your piece.

    Like

  2. Not a big fan of invented words, unless a) they’re clearly shortened from a phrase constantly used, such as any technical group of people use (and don’t tend to use it outside the group), or b) there is nothing that exists, such as for a new discovery or invention.

    I am quite pleased that my entry in the non-gendered third person singular competition, that I have been pushing since the eighties, won (they, not je or xe or something else). On the other hand, ansible, an interstellar communications devide, that does not use radio waves, seems to have been accepted.

    Now, in my stories of the not-distant-furture, I’m referring to people as M. Somebody, not Mr., Mrs, Ms, M’sieur, or anything else. What it stands for, I have no clue, and if someone comes up with a word, let me know. As long as it doesn’t have a “z” in it, and preferably not an “x”….. An existing word, in any language, would be perfect.

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  3. I don’t mind “created words” at all. The newest viral created word for me is “woke.” I see it everywhere and even Mitch McConnell used it to complain about “woke corporations” who, he feels, should stay out of politics. At first I had no idea what was meant by the word, but I’ve come to understand that it means “well informed or one who is up-to-date on certain issues. I like it.
    Very interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

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