Invent New Words, Seriously

I’m glad to see Andrew Kaufman agree with me in the Guardian. Yes, we absolutely need to invent new words when naming things, especially because most of the good ones have already been sucked up by big corporations. Kaufman writes:

Inventing new words is one of the most rebellious things you can do. We all live under a set of prescribed social assumptions, which are embedded into our words. If you want to think outside your social conditioning, you will need a new word to do it.

But I fundamentally disagree with his assertion that, “Like every other word in the language, your new word should be a mashup of pre-existing words.” First of all, any linguist will tell you that not every word in the dictionary is built from other words. Some words are purely arbitrary in their origin.

As you can see from the list of examples he provides, portmonteaux, or words derived by mashing together existing words, are often silly or just dumb. It’s rare to find one that rises above the level of a bad pun.

True originality means inventing from nothing.  You have to find a euphonous combination of sounds that rarely occur together, and make them work. And then you get to sell your new word to the public, and see if it catches on.

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