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MADE UP WORDS

January 27, 2021

            An interesting subject came up the other day on one of the Facebook forums. It was about made up words. The gist of it was how the English language is ever expanding with how invented words are being added to our language and whether authors should make up their own.

            Of course, the “opines” varied, from “sure” to “you shouldn’t mess with English.”

            For those that know me, I’m definitely in the “sure” camp. I not only continually play with words, but make them up, make fun of words, subvert them, distort them, invert the first letters, and change them in all sorts of ways.

            This doesn’t always translate to the written page, of course. I DO have my practical limits, but once in a while, something might sneak into my published prose.

            Now, as for my everyday chatter, either oral or written, no holds barred.

WHY NOT USE WHAT’S ALREADY THERE?

            The English language has 170,000 to 220,00 words already available for use (if you include the obsolete ones). Why not make better use of the more obscure ones?

            Oh…kay…

            First off…many of them are obscure for a reason.

            Try unpronounceable, or close to it.

            Try obscure meanings.

            Try obsolete meanings.

            Try college level.

            Try upgraded by simpler or more direct meanings.

            If you’ve been a reader here at Fred Central, have you ever heard me use the phrase, “throw the dictionary at the reader?”

            There you go.

            There are some authors that love to do this. While these complex and college level words are legitimate and right there in the dictionary, they’re also little used, and come off as snooty and pretentious to the average reader. Sure, nothing wrong with whipping a little education on the “unwashed masses.” However, some words go into obscurity for a reason.

MODERN TERMS ARE MORE FITTING FOR THE TIMES

            There’s nothing wrong with bringing in the new and throwing out the old, to an extent. While the root of the language is the basis to call it what it is, in this case, English, terms and definitions can vary based on changing times. That’s called evolution.

            Nobody in 1500 had likely ever heard of the word skyscraper.

            Just like nobody in 1700 had ever heard of a jet or jetsetting.

            Therefore, new words need to be added to the “dikshunerry” all the time.

            That, of course, does not account for deliberate misspellings. That’s just me, like wyberry, or dun didded.

            That’s me, playing with words.

            Those words I sometimes use in my personal communication, but unless I have an opportunity to use one in dialogue someday, they’re not appropriate for narrative.

WHEN YOU MAKE UP TERMS OR WORDS

            When, in the course of your book, whether fiction or non-fiction, you make up a word, you’re not committing a major crime against humanity. You’re making up a word.

            That’s it.

            They key to doing so is that you must define the word and have a good reason for doing so.

            What good reason?

            This is the sticking point.

            Defining good reason can mean a lot of different things.

            To me, what it means is that it’s important to the story. That’s it.

            It can be technical, key to the plot, or no other reason than humor. Those are all good reasons.

            If your book becomes a best-seller and the word catches on, guess what? You may be the source of a new word in the dictionary!

I PLAY WITH WORDS

            I’ve played with words since I was a little kid. Maybe that’s why I’ve had such an easy time coming up with names for creatures, places, characters, plants and such for my fantasy world in Meleena’s Adventures. Same can be said for any of my fiction writing. When I need a fictional technical term, guess what? Boom! Off the top of my head.

            I love to make fun of the English language, or any language I’m exposed to. I love to play with words, manipulate them, and change them around.

            Therefore, it only comes natural that I can make a mess of things when I want to.

            On the other hand, to do that, it means I also have to have an intricate knowledge of English to be able to make fun of it and manipulate it, at least to the level I do.

            I couldn’t write what I do with out that knowledge. I can’t say that for other languages, of which my skills are much more rudimentary.

            I’ve picked up a lot from listening to kids, or recalling kid talk from when I was one back in the day. Those years being a kid, or raising them has provided a wealth of words to covet.

            Listening to groups of people around the country has provided the same thing. Every region and sometimes even neighborhoods has their own wealth of variances and quirks of the English language, full of gems to be exploited.

            Now these gem words just need the Fred touch to be utilized.

SUMMARY

            Some authors are dead-set against made up words, and they have a point.

            We already have plenty in our language.

            On the other side, our language is evolving all the time as times change. Obscure words get shelved for a reason. New ones take their place to keep up with current trends.

            Pick one.

            Happy writing!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2021 3:09 pm

    I love your dun-didded. I think made up words can be fun for the reader and really enjoy seeing authors do this. Not everyone has the imagination (or the lack of literary snobbishness) to move past it and get a kick from poking a little fun.

  2. February 3, 2021 5:23 pm

    Debra,

    Thank you so much! I make up words all the time, though I also try to make them understandable. Dun didded is a good example. The word snobs cringe, of course, but hey, can’t please everyone!

    All the best!

    Fred

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