Neologism – /niːˈɒlədʒɪzəm/; from Greek νέο- néo-, ‘new’ and λόγος lógos, ‘speech, utterance’, borrowed from the French, néologisme in the 1700s, is the creation of new words, which of course is nothing new, Shakespeare was a master neologist and before him, well, someone had to invent them.
Language is ever evolving and forever fascinating. There has always been and will most certainly always be, debate surrounding the usefulness and relevance in regards to the coinage of new words, recent decades have spawned many new words and spurred many such debates.
I must admit I’m not always on the side of pop culture when it comes to cementing certain words to the history of language. Though I profess to be a tried and true logophile, such an unseemly name for such a beautiful obsession, I do struggle with certain recent entrants into our everyday vernacular.
Several years ago I was a bit taken back when I jokingly typed muffin top into dictionary.com and actually found a definition. It is right there in black and white, listed as a noun, defined as flesh that falls over the waistband of a garment, example: muffin tops hanging over tight jeans. Etymology, 2003; for its resemblance to the food . . . also known as muffin roll.
This discovery led me to type in my bad, forty-eight meanings followed by even further explanations. At least now I know where to go when I’m unsure what the teenage beings inhabiting the planet are saying. In January of 2005 the American Dialect Society deemed luanqibaozhao least likely to succeed in its Words of the Year vote, fittingly, it is Chinese for a complicated mess, fitting as well for some of today’s new entrants into dictionary prestige.
A newly coined word for newly coined words is protologism, you won’t find this in any mainstream dictionary, at least not yet, it has however, earned entry in urbandictionary.com – protologism – n Greek protos, first, original + Greek logos, word; cf. prototype, neologism – a newly created word which has not yet gained any wide acceptance. It is a prototype or a hypothetical projection of a new lexical unit before it may become current in writing or speech.
The word “protologism” proposed here and now is itself an example of protologism. In contrast to protologisms, neologisms are words that have already been in public usage by authors other than their inventors. As soon as a protologism finds its way into newspapers and websites, journals and books, it becomes a neologism.
Old(ish) new words. Radar was birthed in 1941, while technically an acronym for radio detecting and ranging, it is still a relatively new word, that same year the word robotics was accepted. In 1968 blackhole became another mainstream word. Hyperspace (1934), phaser, (1966), metaverse (1992) and replicant (1982) are also examples of new old words. Political correctness, soccer mom, genocide, homophobia, and meritocracy all came in to being between 1943 and 1992.
Nonce words almost fit into the category of new words, these are words made up for a specific, usually one time use in literary pursuits. Over a thousand nonce words appear in the Oxford English Dictionary, “touch-me-‘not-ishness (stand-off-ish.) 1837 Dickens, There was a dignity in the air, a touch-me-not-ishness in the walk, a majesty in the eye of the spinster aunt. cot’queanity (character or quality of a (female) cotquean. [The housewife of a cot or labourer’s hut] 1601 B. Jonson Poetaster We tell thee thou angerest us, cotquean; and we will thunder thee in pieces for thy cotqueanity. I’m rather fond of several of them.
Onto some of our newer additions, many of which I have a hard time understanding their usage, but by popular demand they can now be looked up and utilized for generations. Mouse potato, earwurm, sexting, man cave, bucket list, unibrow, bling-bling (or simply bling), hoody, manga, ginormous, soul patch, supersize, himbo, google, drama queen, ringtone, crunk, degenderize, ixnay (yes, pig-latin), biodiesel, telenovella, docusoap, dramedy, smackdown, spyware, emoticon, chill pill, and trekkie are among the new and wondrous words immortalized in print.
There are other very real and very invented words in the English Oxford Dictionary of notable origin. Hobbit for instance, created in 1937 by J.R.R Tolkien. Grok was made up by Robert Heinlein in 1961 for his novel Stanger in a Strange Land. Camelious was coined by Kipling in 1902 and Shazam was invented for the Captain Marvel Comics in 1940. The word spoof was invented for a game created by Arthur Roberts in 1884. The word blatant was coined Edmund Spencer in 1596 in The Faerie Queen to describe a thousand tongued monster representing slander.
There will always be words, ancient, old, new and newer. I may not like them all, but I can’t help but love each one of them.
Crystal R. Cook