Saturday, October 30, 2010

Inventing Your Wordrobe

Recently I encountered three interesting, new-to-me words and word phrases: gender resistance (source: NPR), helicopter parenting (source: online article about bullying) and gynobibliophobia (source: Paul McFeries's Word Spy blog, while I was looking for a term to use for my post title.) I jotted down all three because they intrigued me, and I'm almost sure I'll use the first two in conversation if not fiction. As interesting as gynobibliophobia is, though, it sounds like a fear of gynecologists with books, or books with gynecologists, not the meaning it was given (a dislike of women writers.)

When you want to invent some new stuff for your wordrobe, you should always keep in mind that coined words must be comprehensible not only to you but anyone who reads them (and remember, you're probably not going to be there with the reader to explain things.) Wordnut Randy Parker blogs here about inventing an advertising term for a commercial client, and mentions how to do this: Most of the time, words coined in advertising are combinations of existing words or parts of words, so that the meanings are still understood. This is really the first law of word-coining for any field.

You may be hesitant to dive into adding new things to your wordrobe, but coining words becomes easier with practice, too. I found a simple random word generator with an option to choose the level of obscurity, and began generating nouns and combining them into words and phrases with my own definitions. In ten minutes I had put together these seven:

Fumetruth: the honesty we display when we are furious

Fuzzyshed: pilled bits that have come off an old sweater in the wash

Honesty Hell:: where we end up when we tell the truth a little too often

Inkclaim: a hand-written deed proving ownership of property on a fantasy world

Joydump: what a person who has had remarkable luck gives you in the process of informing you about it

Maze-Minded: someone whose thought processes are lengthy, convoluted and rarely provide results

Sigh Processor: someone who always tries to interpret the meaning behind the non-verbal sounds you make.

When you coin words for stories, look at your worldbuilding, your characterizations and details from your plot. These are all excellent sources of keywords and concepts, some of which will jump out at you when you're thinking about words to invent. Once you've made a list of the words that have the most appeal to you, start playing with them. Chop them up, recombine them and see what happens. I like fusing two words together to form a new/third meaning, but I'm also an anagram junkie.

What's in your wordrobe?


  1. LucidReamer: Someone with a gift for carving their antagonist a new one--of precise size, dimension, and clarity.

  2. HAHAHAHA. I totally just committed a joydump in your inbox!

  3. LOVE Maze-minded! I have a friend like that. Love her dearly, but geez there are days, I wish she wouldn't talk...

  4. Wow, the random word generator gives you the option of transitive or intransitive verbs! Fun things to play with.

  5. This word generator is SO cool. Definitely putting it under Favorites. I'm going to use it every time I'm having writer's block trouble. I just tried out the generator and it really made me think outside the box. :)


  6. Cool post. Love the idealogy of Wordrobe.

    I can understand how made up words need to resound with something familiar and easy interpreted.

    One example is Sunbeam bread put out a brand called Holesum. At first it bugged the heck out of me. It's an obvious play on wholesome - albeit a very hick terminology. It does however get the point across. (Hugs)Indigo

  7. Maze-Minded: someone whose thought processes are lengthy, convoluted and rarely provide results

    heh! that sounds like me!!!

  8. Internetherworld: where all those lost emails end up.

  9. I ran across this the other day and thought it fit in here. Just change one letter and let they hysterical laughter begin (I know not your point but I couldn't resist!) I could actually see using bozone on a regular basis.

    The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

    Here are the winners:

    1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

    2. Ignoranus : A person who's both stupid and an a**h**e.

    3. Intaxicaton : Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

    4. Reintarnation : Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

    5. Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

    6. Foreploy : Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid..

    7. Giraffiti : Vandalism spray-painted very, very high

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

    9. Inoculatte : To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

    10. Osteopornosis : A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

    11. 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.

    12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

    13. Glibido : All talk and no action.

    14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

    15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

    16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

    17. Caterpallor ( n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.