July 30, 2009

On the Lighter Side - Mythic Words We Believe In

Hatched by Dafydd

I'm writing a more substantial piece, but it's really dragging. So I decided to lighten up with a confession: There is no such a word as intricities.

Yes, I confess: For years, I thought it existed. I was well aware of the (actual) word "intricacies," but I'd somehow got it into my head that there was that similar but distinct word intricities that was more or less a synonym.

Has any of you ever done such a thing -- accidentally made up an ersatz word but thought it was real?

I know at least one other person: Friend Lee was perfectly familiar with the word multitudinous; but somehow a nonexistent variant got lodged in his brain -- and for hundreds of years, he described New York hordes, Bengali swarms, and Carter's collection of catastrophes as multidinuous.

I'm not particularly interested in simple misunderstanding of the meaning of a real word; I had a girlfriend -- I think it was before Sachi and I married -- who insisted that so-and-so's behavior was more than silly... it was supercilious! But I'm interested today in the misbegotten creation of brand, new vocabulary -- involuntary neologism -- birthing a never-before-seen word into the English language by sheerest mischance.

I think I'll start calling such words neologasms (and no, that isn't one).

I'm also not interested in deliberate neologism, from Shakespeare supposedly creating the word "assassinate" to Norm Crosby coining the utterly apt "beertender." To qualify as a neologasm, a created word must be an honest mistake; and it must persist in vocabulary long enough to thoroughly humiliate its unwitting creator.

Non-native English speakers can come up with some great neologasms: Sachi once described herself as being too squirmish to eat snake; she insisted that one of her friends annoyed her by acting smuggish; and she suggested, when money was tight, that we needed to be more frugalent.

Then there are neologasmic phrases, where words are put together in a way that's not quite right -- but might discover a serendipitous meaning all their own. Someone who can't seem to get his life together after the death of a loved one might suffer from post-mortem depression; people in trouble might have grown up on the wrong side of the bed; the young make foolish mistakes because they're still green behind the ears; and I myself once accidentally (not on purpose!) got annoyed enough at an acquaintance to tell him not to stick his head in an ostrich. But that last doesn't really count, because I realized immediately that it wasn't exactly what I meant to say.

So is this unique to me and those folks frudulous enough to hang around me? Or are there other corralections of people who create stimular neologasms?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 30, 2009, at the time of 11:21 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Stacy0311


Hearing that word a lot during Death by PowerPoint presentations

The above hissed in response by: Stacy0311 [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 31, 2009 5:42 AM

The following hissed in response by: Freetime

This may not be right on target but I suspect there are not many kids that at one time didn't refer to flutterbys and honeybees. A friend's oldest daughter (4 yrs old) conflates juvenile self-involvement and necessities into neccesames.

The above hissed in response by: Freetime [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 31, 2009 7:40 AM

The following hissed in response by: ManlyDad

Our kids said of fragile gifts that they were "glassible."

And I hear a lot of people say "undoubtably."

For a phrase, I'm too afraid to correct anyone who says "for all intensive purposes" even though I used to use it myself.

The above hissed in response by: ManlyDad [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 31, 2009 7:15 PM

The following hissed in response by: Freetime

"all intensive purposes". I love it.

The above hissed in response by: Freetime [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 31, 2009 7:56 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dick E


My favorites may not exactly fit your definition, but you probably have to do as I do and translate English into English. This happens so often in our house that I don’t bother to keep track.

The earliest example I can recall happened within the first year or so after my wife arrived here from Mexico. She returned from a lunch date with friends and told me the restaurant they went to was the “Copper Rooster.” I hadn’t heard of it, so I asked where it was. With this further information I suggested that perhaps they had gone to the “Rusty Scupper.” Sigh.

Then there are the “kid-isms” we have all heard. Our daughter once told her classmates, “My Mom is Mexican, so she talks with an accident.”

The above hissed in response by: Dick E [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 31, 2009 10:39 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Dick E:

I keep a Microsoft Word file with scores of examples of "Sachisms."

My favorite is from before I lost a lot of weight. We were in D.C. in November, and it was very cold (in the teens -- cold for me, born and raised in Southern California). I said I was freezing, and Sachi responded:

"You won't freeze; you have too much insolence!"

"Truer words were never spoken," I said; or I would have, had I been able to stop laughing long enough to spit it out...


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 1, 2009 2:21 AM

The following hissed in response by: JimK

I have a friend who has always mispronounced the word byte as "bye-tye".

The one that used to always bug me here in the South is: Same difference.

The above hissed in response by: JimK [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 4, 2009 7:11 PM

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