"A word after a word after a word is power" - Margaret Atwood


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A blog about the stories we tell each other and how we tell them...

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

New words - the ones we need and the ones that happen

Like all writers, I'm interested in words. We want to use language with precision and, at the same time, to have fun with the rich texture of vocabulary but sometimes you just have to make it up...The American comedian Rich Hall has come up with the term sniglet for any word that doesn't appear in the dictionary, but should. Here's a couple of examples:
Caffidget (ka fij' it) - v. To break up a polystyrene cup of coffee into several hundred pieces after draining it.
Genderplex - n. The predicament of a person in a restaurant who is unable to determine his or her designated restroom e.g. turtles and tortoises.  (Had this problem in Seville meat and vegetable market when I mistook the 'S' of signor for a 'G' and couldn't find an appropriate phrase in my guide book.) 

I'm indebted to Michael Quinion and his wonderful website (and email newsletter) - Worldwide Words - for this very recent history about the accidental evolution of a new word. Click on the title of this post to go to his website.

YAKA-WOW  In what seems to have been a mixture of rueful admission of error and pleasure in accidental accomplishment, the Times noted on 23 April that a transcription error in an interview on 15 April with the neuroscientist Baroness Greenfield has gone viral. She was concerned that excessive playing of computer games or using social networks such as Twitter would stop the malleable brains of young people developing as they should: "It's not going to destroy the planet but is it going to be a planet worth living in if you have a load of breezy people who go around saying yaka-wow. Is that the society we want?" Within 24 hours, it is said, Google had 75,000 results for "yaka-wow". It has inspired a Twitter stream, a page on Facebook, mugs and T-shirts; it has become a personal philosophy: "I think, therefore I yaka-wow"; and it has led to the creation of the virtual First Church of the Yaka-Wow. What Baroness Greenfield really said was "yuck and wow", a derogatory comment about the limited emotional range and vocabulary of Twitter users. Considered linguistically and culturally, it's a fascinating example of the way electronic communications can today create and transmit a new word.

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