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Sep 20, 2021
This week’s theme
Coined words

This week’s words
vorpal
consilience
psychobabble
rheology
locavore

vorpal
The beamish boy fighting the Jabberwock with a vorpal sword
Illustration: John Tenniel (1820-1914)

Previous week’s theme
felix culpa
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

There’s been a campaign to get a word* in the dictionary. The people behind it are doing it as a tribute to their dad who coined the word and recently died of Covid.

They have a nice list of goals, including making the word “official” by getting it into a dictionary.

I sympathize with them and admire their wish to honor their dad. I even support their efforts to get their word popularized so others use it. I just don’t want lexicographers to be annoyed by forwarded news articles and by reporters calling about when they plan to add this new word to their dictionary to make it “official”. I have received a fair number of forwards about it, including suggestions to feature it.

That is not how a word gets into a dictionary. A dictionary is not a tribute site.

A dictionary adds words based on the evidence of its use. If a word is being used in a wide variety of contexts, in a disparate range of outlets, it shows the word has currency. It shows the word is probably going to stick around in the language instead of disappearing when people move on to the next fad.

If you wouldn’t want a place that doesn’t exist, that nobody is looking for, to be added to Google Maps, you don’t want a fanciful coined word to be added to a dictionary.

That said, some coined words do get into the dictionary (in a way, all words are coined words). This week we’ll feature five such words, whose coiners we know about.

What words have you coined? Share them below or email us at words@wordsmith.org. Make sure to google your coinage first to see no one has thought of it earlier. Sometimes many people come up with the same word independently. Note that we are interested in words you yourself have come up with -- not ones you read somewhere.

*If you have to know, the word is orbisculate, defined by its campaigners as a verb meaning to accidentally squirt juice on someone. So there’s going to be a different campaign for a word that means to purposely squirt juice on someone?

vorpal

PRONUNCIATION:
(VOR/VUHR-puhl)

MEANING:
adjective:
1. Sharp.
2. Deadly.

ETYMOLOGY:
Coined by Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) in his novel Through the Looking-Glass. Earliest documented use: 1871.

NOTES:
The word appears in the poem “Jabberwocky” in the novel Through the Looking-Glass.:
He took his vorpal sword in hand,
...
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
See more words from “Jabberwocky” that are now a part of the English language here.

USAGE:
“Their vorpal blades glowed in the darkness with a pale blue light.”
Piers Anthony, et al; Quest for the Fallen Star; Tom Doherty; 2010.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will have truly defeated age. -Sophia Loren, actor and singer (b. 20 Sep 1934)

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