Monday, 9 March 2009

The line between neologism and just buggering about.

Neologisms. Aren't they great? They have to be the ultimate goal of any writer. Just think: your reading public trust you so completely that when you invent a word - whose meaning is apparent because of your sheer expertise with the language - they just...start using it, and it makes it to the dictionary. Previous blogs have hinted at my love of a certain set of ancient yet robust anglosaxon expressions, but just as dear to my heart are words that have been invented by a known writer, and have then been taken on in general.
What got me on to this, you ask? Well. There is nothing so flattering yet faintly demeaning than the expression of surpise and admiration on a colleague's face when you, a mere peon - and a temporary peon at that - instantly 'get' and respond to an intellectual comment of theirs.
In this case, Paul, a wonderful teacher I've worked with before, of the type who talks down to no-one and yet includes everyone, used the slightly suspect word 'architectiologist'. I asked if he meant architect. "No", he said, "someone who STUDIES architecture, not someone who designs the buildings themselves..." "but...Architectiologist?" I said, disbelievingly, but willing to be re-educated: after all, for all I knew, this WAS a word. "It's a neologism." he said - quite haughtily, if I'm honest. "What, as of five minutes ago?" I returned, at which point he stopped and looked at me. "People don't usually know what 'neologsm' means" he said, with a glimmer of new respect. "I usually get [insert gormless look of incomprehension] "Huh?" or something similar ". Now. I felt happy that I was on the same page of the great vocab book of life with him enough that we could trade high-falutin' words over the kids' heads, but I also felt a little sad that he didn't automatically assume that I would know what a neologism was.
This, my friends, is what defines a geek of any genre. If you don't MEAN to look down on others, but it genuinely baffles you how anyone could NOT know anything as basic as the word neologism/particle theory/application program interfaces, you're officially a geek.
Here is my question, though: what does it take to make a goofy-made-up-word an official neologism? Is it the fame of the writer, or can a truly great word spring from an un known source? wo, for example, coined words like 'lol'?( now an official word in my book, as is can be conjugated: I lol, you lol she/he/it lols, I loled, we all have loled.) Can I claim that "Advenstruate" is a neologism, meaning to menstruate in an adventurous way? (Shout out to Adventures in Menstruating, there, btw.) or do I need to wait until people other than me and people I bribe are using it before it counts?
Well, who confinkles? (worth a try, eh?)
And by the way, Paul, the word you're after is 'architectural historian'.


  1. Confinkles! I love it! That should be the name of a blog.

  2. Confinkles: I have these from all the times I've gotten confused and wrinkled my forehead.