Can I Make Up a Word?

“I speak of the pompatus of love.”

Welcome to Amaze-ing Words Wednesday! There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who believe that Steve Miller is super-cool for making up a word -“pompatus” [of love] – and those who think Steve Miller was being silly.

It would be convenient at times to simply make up your own words. For instance, if you are writing a poem or a song, it might help to invent a word to better rhyme with another word. You might need something to rhyme with “angst” (nothing does).

When attempting to avoid cussing (for whatever reason), it might be nice to call someone a “kerpluk,” which you have personally decided means “you dim-witted, selfish, son of a #!*%*.” (If my mom is reading this, that was “son of a gun.”)

Moreover, you may have discovered some item or concept that has yet to be labeled. After all, what do you call that string of dead bugs which gather between your carpet and baseboard? If it happens often to enough people, maybe someone should invent a word for it.

I think the pompatus of love sounds delightful. I don’t know what it means and don’t need to (although The Straight Dope has a good article on its origin). The word is just fun to say and to sing.

Made-up words yet to be officially defined or commonly used are neologisms. The Washington Post hosts neologism contests through The Style Invitational. They invite readers to submit invented words based on some concept and parameters (for instance, using foreign words) and then choose winners from among the entries.

Some winners and runners-up of the contest are featured below:

Cogito ergo bum: Sudden realization of graduating philosophy majors.

Fit accompli: When the screaming 2-year-old finally gets the cookie.

Karmageddon: It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.

Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

The New York Times also printed a few neologisms in March 2011, including the following words that you might wish to add to your vocabulary:

Centrovert: One who is slightly introvert and slightly extrovert and is thus ideally suited for mediation, negotiation and collaboration.

Disposophobia: A sesquipedalian term for hoarding.

Sheening: To behave like Charlie Sheen – partying, questionable decision-making and public humiliation.

Rice University keeps a Neologisms Database (compiled by ENGL215/LING215 students). Here are some of their entries:

Aberzombie: One who wears only clothing from the Abercrombie clothing store and is viewed as lacking in unique personality or independent taste in style.

Pirattitude: To act like a stereotypical pirate, by singing chanties and engaging in other such activities.

Sweaxy: The feeling of having an attractive glow of good health after exercising.

The University of Pennsylvania maintains a website called the Language Log which also notes neologisms as they appear in our language, such as:

Scrobble: To kidnap or capture, such as media that you shouldn’t be pirating.

Sportspocalypse: The month packed with sports video game releases; a showdown of licensed sports titles.

Additionally, I hear slang terms all of the time which make no sense to me, so I head over to the Urban Dictionary to look them up. These are words which people have made up or heard and then written their own definition for. Top entries as I write this post include:

Carnevoyeur: A vegetarian who derives satisfaction from watching other people eat meat or hearing about the eating of meat.

Chiptease: When you buy a bag of chips thinking that it will be full of chips, but when you open the bag it’s barely full.

Manolescent: A man of any age that shirks adult responsibilities.

Some neologisms have crept into my own vocabulary, such as “staycation”and “cringeworthy.” Yet I want to invent my own word. Something filled with meaning, beneficial to humankind, and lasting in its impact (Shakespeare coined words, you know). Living with three guys (hubby and two sons), I believe I’ve come up with a few good ones:

Legonavigate: To pick out a path and walk around Legos strewn across the floor in an effort to keep from stepping on those building blocks and cursing the Danes. “I had to Legonavigate his room to reach the dresser.”

Pyrecreation: Setting things on fire – such as paper, twigs, crackers, Cheetos, etc. – for recreational amusement. “Our sons are engaged in pyrecreation with the fire pit on the back porch.”

Spocktacular: A statement or action revealing the overly analytical nature of a person such that they should be compared to the Star Trek Vulcan. “Dude, that was Spocktacular!”

So what do you think? Which of the above neologisms do you like? What neologisms can you offer? Have you heard any great ones lately?

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22 thoughts on “Can I Make Up a Word?

  1. Can I vote for "sweaxy" to move from neologism to real word? 🙂 I'll have to tell my hubby that next time I wreak after a heavy workout session.

  2. I liked Sheening because that's the kind of words we make up in our house. I make up expressions a good bit. Like those little specs of dirt its so hard to clean? I call those dirt babies. Loved your post. I'm sorry I don't have a real made-up word to contribute. 😀

  3. Ahahaha! Legonavigation is necessary in my house too. I also loved this one: Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.Hilarious post!

  4. I bet you're a master Legonavigator by now, Erin! (Yes, the word can be adapted.) In fact, I feel sometimes like Karmageddon has happened in my son's room with all of the Legos exploded out in every direction.

  5. In my family, when we think someone is being weird or uncool, we say they are a hobo sacker. Funny, funny post! I printed it out so I could read it to my husband. Loved all the neologisms, especially sweaxy. 🙂

  6. In my family, when we think someone is being weird or uncool, we say they are a hobo sacker. Funny, funny post! I printed it out so I could read it to my husband. Loved all the neologisms, especially sweaxy. 🙂

  7. Julie, My 9-year-old daughter came up with that term. I thought it was funny and we just started using it randomly. It's a combination of hobo and grocery sacker. "Hobo slacker" is another variation. These days I feel like a hobo sacker since I can't seem to find a job!

  8. I frequently make up words when I’m excited and need a bigger word to describe it. Like awesometacular, fantabulous, awesomesauce, and fantasmagorical.

    Also, my new favourite word is shitshow. Which pretty much describes any sort of messy, mixed up, or confusing situation.

    Love your words 🙂

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