Straight off the Press

Wordy Wednesday highlighter

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 fortnight 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!


Down in the dark, noisy printing press rooms of the 19th century, the sound of typesetters was difficult to miss.  The clicking of metal-on-metal seemed impossibly fast.  The skilled typesetters had to work as quickly as possible.  Their job was to place each metal-cast letter, upside-down and reversed, into a steel block.  As you can imagine, this was an intricate and time-consuming process and, especially in the newspaper industry, time was ??????????????????????not something they had.

Printing books nowadays is a largely automated process, and texts are mass produced with little human intervention. Manly of the technical words used in the early printing press rooms have become obsolete, but some have lingered and become part of our everyday language.

Cliché

You could pull out an old newspaper and find many commonly used phrases.  Adding those letters on one-by-one every time a certain phrase was used wasted precious time.  So the letters of many phrases were cast together, into single blocks called, in France, clichés.  Over time the word left France and came to mean the eye-roll inducing, over-used sayings we refer to today.

Stereotype

In English, clichés in printing were called stereotypes.  Although stereotype could also refer to the plaster mould taken of the whole-page metal plates.  These moulds were more flexible, and were what was placed on the rolling drums that printed onto blank newspaper.  The moulds of book pages were stored for reprinting later, to save the time-consuming task of re-typesetting a 50,000 word novel.

Upper/lower case

While typesetters were click-clacking away, they had to get their letters from somewhere.  Letters were sorted into two cases – capital letters in the upper case, and small letters in the lower case!

Do you know of any other printing-related words we’ve taken into everyday language? What new words did you learn this week?

Tweeny Boppers and Dinglehoppers

Wordy WednesdayWords 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.

Tween

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.

SeussnerdNerd

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.

Swagger

(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.

Bonus: Dinglehopper

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.

scuttle

“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?

Especially Special

Wordy WednesdayWords 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!

I was reading this week, and I came across the word especial. It seems bizarre, but in my many years of reading I’ve never seen the word in that context. Especially, I have read, but especial?

So it begged the question: what is the difference between special and especial?

The answer: a very subtle difference.

Especial (adjective) – better or greater than usual

Special (adjective) – better, greater or otherwise different from what is usual

The only difference, as far as I could ascertain, is that especial implies that something inferior or lesser exists, while special is not necessarily a comparative word.

For example:

The celebrity, Gloria, was given especial attention at the event. She was given her own, special wine glass. Gloria loves wine, especially French champagne. The room was specially decorated with French decorations, for Gloria’s benefit.

It’s a subtle difference but I can see how the distinction can come in handy while writing. I’ll be paying more attention when I use either of these words.

What new words have you discovered this week?

Wordy Wednesday

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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.  I might be an avid reader, a word-lover and a writer, but I actually have quite a small vocabulary.  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 vernacular.  Anyone is free to follow suit! Let’s learn new words!

I just thought of this, so it’s only one word this week:

Mollify (verb) – appease or soften a person’s temper.

I’ve come across this word many times, but never bothered to look it up.  I always assumed its definition from the context – but I had assumed the exact opposite! I always thought when someone was mollified their temper increased.  That’s just the way the word sounds in my head.  I guess that’s why we should never assume.

What new words did you discover this week?