Words are amazing. We string letters together to make words, and weave words to create the beautiful, funny and heart-stopping stories we all love. So I’ve decided that every week I’ll document the new words I’ve discovered (or re-discovered) in the hopes of expanding my vocabulary. Anyone is free to follow suit! Let’s learn new words!
As a writer, I get a certain satisfaction when I find the perfect word. When you find one single word to describe a situation, it’s like all the planets align, and you get a momentary sense of peace among the chaos also know as the writing process. But sometimes you can’t think of the right word. It’s on the tip of your tongue but it’s just not coming out.
It starts with S… Or has an S in it… Or maybe it’s a T… No, it definitely starts with P…
That phenomenon actually has a name: loganamnosis (good luck remembering that).
Now I usually find that after all that thinking I suddenly realise the word I was thinking of doesn’t fit those letters at all, in fact it doesn’t fit the meaning I wanted. I inevitably spend 15 minutes trying to decode mischievous, when what I really meant was misogyny.
But there are some writers who took this situation and went “To hell with this. I’ll just make it up.” Shakespeare is the most famous – he’s credited as the inventor of 2000 words! Here are three words I use all the time, and the person who (allegedly – my source is the internet) invented them.
We use the word tween to describe that awkward “between teen” time period, after childhood but before puberty has really set in and the hormones have turned you into a raging teenager (instead, the hormones turn you into a giggling Justin Bieber fan). But this is not what tween has always meant. J.R.R. Tolkien (beloved author of The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings), first used the word tweens in The Fellowship of the Ring. “At that time Frodo was still in his tweens, as the hobbits called the irresponsible twenties between childhood and coming of age at thirty-three.” Whether the word evolved or was coincidentally re-coined is up for debate.
In Dr Seuss’s book If I Ran the Zoo, a nerd was one of many creatures in a zoo. One year after the book was published, university students were using nerd to describe those “weirdos” who don’t fit into pop culture. The link? No one knows.
(I use this one ironically, I swear)
Recently evolved into the cringe-worthy “swaggy” (a word adopted by tweens – and their almighty God, Justin Bieber – who use it constantly but don’t seem to have given it any particular definition), swagger was one of those words credited to Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “What hempen home-spuns have we swaggering here, so near the cradle of the fairy queen?” Until recently, this word didn’t have to worry about losing it’s original definition – an arrogant, rocking walk.
So this word was coined by Scuttle in The Little Mermaid movie, and unfortunately hasn’t made it into the dictionary yet, but it’s a good one.
“It’s a dinglehopper. Humans use these little babies to straighten their hair out. See? Just a little twirl here and a yank there and voila. You’ve got an aesthetically pleasing configuration of hair that humans go nuts over.”
Do you know any other words authors made up? Have you invented any words in your writing?