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#19720 - 02/20/01 01:44 AM Coined words
Wordsmith Offline


Registered: 03/12/00
Posts: 125
"My seven-year old coined this word. Could you tell me how I can get it
into a dictionary?" Questions like this pop up in my mailbox from time to
time, from folks wondering how to get a word to take up residence amidst
the hallowed leaves of a lexicon. Thousands of new words do enter the
dictionaries every year. So, what is the criterion behind their inclusion?
What does a word have to do to be worthy of being called `legitimate?' Who
decides what is a good word and what is not?

Usage is the single most important factor to determine if a word gains
membership of that exclusive club. It has to appear extensively, in
many different sources, such as newspapers, magazines, books, TV, radio,
Internet, etc., over several years to show that it is gaining currency. It
has to fill a need and describe a phenomenon for which no other word
exists. Also, it doesn't hurt if the word is catchy and captures public

Dictionary editors read a wide variety of sources to monitor the language.
They take notes--known as citations--on little 3x5 index cards or in a
computer database. Once there is enough evidence, they consider whether to
include it in the next edition of their dictionary, and if the answer is yes,
work to define it precisely. Here is an example of a made-up word, which
long-time AWAD subscribers know well, that got into the dictionary. The word
linguaphile, which I coined back in 1994, finally found a place in a dictionary
six years later (in the American Heritage Dictionary, 4th ed., 2000).

So how do you win that honor for your little baby? It's not easy. Share it
with family and friends, use it and encourage them to publish letters,
articles, stories using that word. And even if it doesn't make it into the
dictionary, remember that it is still a bona fide word -- nothing in the
definition of the word `word' says that a word has to be in a dictionary to
be called one. Have fun coining words, and enjoy this week's coinages that
DID reach the dictionaries.

#19721 - 02/20/01 12:47 PM Re: Coined words
Fiberbabe Offline
old hand

Registered: 01/12/01
Posts: 771
Loc: Portland, Oregon
OOOOH! How I've been waiting for the opportunity to post about this! I figure that one way I can leave my eternal mark on this world (at least in the annals of "Faddish Pop Culture" - and now that there are graduate degrees in Pop Culture to be had, at least there'll be someone to tend the annals) is to originate some catch phrase that will be inextricably tied to some point on the zeitgeist continuum. "Yadda yadda yadda" defines the Seinfeld 90s. "Sit on it" and "Aaaaaay" were the Happy Days 70s. I think you know where I'm going. I aspire to bring the phrase "Con leche, baby" into the popular lexicon if for no other reason than to say I did it. I envision it to mean something akin to "And how!" - just an enthusiastic assent.

I don't care how it happens... interject it into water cooler conversation. Tell your children to use the phrase at school. Mention it in passing to your Hollywood script-writer friend. Please do your part to make my dream come true.

#19722 - 02/20/01 01:03 PM Re: Coined words
maverick Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/15/00
Posts: 4757
someone to tend the annals

...for study by Annal Retentives?

#19723 - 02/20/01 01:05 PM Re: con leche, baby
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10538
Loc: this too shall pass
fiber (if I may be familiar), babe, as a fellow minneapolitan I think I can safely predict that this will NOT catch on at Java Jack's.

#19724 - 02/20/01 01:19 PM Re: Coined words
of troy Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 10/17/00
Posts: 5400
Loc: rego park
well, when 7, my children didn't coin any words-- but at 4 my daughter introduced to the family a new, and still used (in our family at any rate) expression.

Her brother was showing off his newly learned ability to write real words and sentences (he was in 1st grade) Emily filled a page with squiggles, and showed it off, only to be told it was just "scribble scabble"-- she indignately held her head up, and said "no its not, Its toy script!" and so we now have toy script in our house. it is very discriptive, and simple. and sound so much less like a put down. So kids don't scribble in our family-- but sometimes they make toy script!

my other obsession

#19725 - 02/20/01 01:33 PM Re: Coined words
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10538
Loc: this too shall pass
insignificant other - someone with whom you have a short-term or off-and-on relationship

#19726 - 02/20/01 08:43 PM Re: Coined words
wwh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 13858
...for study by Annal Retentives?
Who let Freud in here?

#19727 - 02/21/01 12:11 AM Re: Coined words
Bingley Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/09/00
Posts: 3065
Loc: Jakarta
Fiberbabe: there'll be someone to tend the annals

Maverick:for study by Annal Retentives?

Isn't fibre/fiber what you take for that problem?


#19728 - 02/21/01 07:18 AM local lexicographer
AnnaStrophic Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
Just for the record, we have a contributor to the OED in our midst:


#19729 - 02/21/01 08:03 AM Re: Coined words--Mc something
of troy Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 10/17/00
Posts: 5400
Loc: rego park
A few years ago in the US, any scandel was called a "gate" after the Watergate break-in-- so we had a "Contra Gate" and others. Now the trend is to us Mc as in Mc Donalds to define something.

A few weeks ago, the NY TImes used McMansion to define the newest style of homes going up and being remodeled in metro areas. Large, oversized for the lot, with two story foyers complete with crystal chandeliers, they have a sameness about them that suggests mass production-- even though most are sold as "custom" houses.

They do seem to be made to a formula-- and they sell fast. but people with Mcjobs can't afford Mc Mansions!

my other obsession

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