Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Coining by Association

Jeroen Kessels' Word Generator creates artificial random words in your choice of seven languages. The helpful thing about this particular generator is that it produces words that look and even sound real (at least in English, Spanish and French; I'm assuming it does the same in the other available languages.)

It also gives you sixty words at once, which gives provides a nice selection to choose from versus the one-word generators out there. While I was playing with it, I started making a list of the artificial words that caught my eye:


When your a kid and you don't know the definition of a word or phrase, often you'll make up one in your head. Until I reached high school I thought a socialist was just someone who was very old, fussy-friendly and went to church a lot. There was even some logic to that assumption: the monthly meeting my grandma went to was called a social, and at them she would hang with her friends and make calendars out of felt and sequins and beads to sell at rummage sales. Therfore a socialist had to be one of those crafty-type old people.

Fortunately I never called my rabidly independent. group-hating Grandma a socialist; she probably would have throttled me.

There are any number of techniques writers can use to coin words, but I like returning to that childlike mindset and building words out of bits and pieces of other words that have real or personal meaning through word association. It means letting go of logic and knowledge and instead running with your imagination, and once you get the hang of it can become a kind of game.

Let's look at that list again, and this time I'll also add what goes through my head as I'm looking at the word:

ritabian: rit = writ; something written; abian = Sabian = cymbal (this is what I get for hanging with musicians when I was younger) = symbol (soundalike word.) Ritabian could be something written that is also something symbolic, maybe a type of pictograph made of words.

versompe: vers = something elegant, i.e. Versace, Versailles, ver à soie (silkworm); sompe = sump, a reservoir inside the bottom of a machine. I don't think there is such a thing as an elegant sump, but the image that forms in my head in some kind of boudoir oubliette; an elegant trap.

lortler: It looks a lot like chortle (chuckle + snort = chortle) but the beginning L softens the word, so maybe a chortler who whispers.

amesar:: ame = amiable, friend; I definitely hear "Tsar" in the end of this word, which is to me a dual symbol of power and corruption, so a kind of benevolent tyrant who isn't too clean or too awful.

cablere: two sound-alike words popped into my head: caballaro and cabala; the -lere makes me think of an organization. A secret cowboy society, or someone who runs one.

throtild: throt = throttle; -ild = gild; a beautiful but tight adornment worn on the neck to downsize it, like a throat corset.

feury: this looks like a blend of fey + fury. Angry faeries.

verislor: veris = Latin ver = truth; lor = lore. Legends based on something that really happened, or that expose the truth of some event.

thagic: thermal + magic. Phoenix-type magic, fire-based that burns or backlashes on the practitioner in some fashion. Magic of last resort; magic of the masochist. Sorrowful magic.

inkmande: ink = ink; mande = mandatory = directive. Although it would probably make more sense to define this one as homework or something one is made to write, I'm thinking it's a kind of writing instrument. Not a pen, but something that functions like a pen that is also plain but beautiful to look at.

If you have trouble coining words, coming up with titles or otherwise using words as building blocks, this kind of game can help stretch your boundaries and teach you to see words not as someone else defines them, but as what they mean to you. Getting in touch with that part of yourself who is still a kid and wants to define the world on your terms is never a bad thing, either. It's the kind of exercise every imagination needs on a regular basis.


  1. "Sometimes the WordGenerator will even generate existing words."

    Oddly enough, I got "bride", "stitch", and "strap"... and since this engaged girl doesn't have a stitch to wear to her own wedding yet, risking the strap, she's wondering if it's a not-so-subtle hint!

    Aftsme, just thinking about wedding planning makes me feel all eyeowonky. :)

  2. icomation: the automated creation of icons or symbols. Or perhaps people who create new symbols for heraldry?

  3. I'm tickled by "Feury." I keep picturing a band of tiny, angry fairies marching in formation through the woods with swords and torches.

    I think there's a story in this.

  4. I just found your blog, and I was delighted to read this post! My husband and I have been talking a lot about words and wordplay and playing with words, using your imagination to create new meanings and possibilities. He actually wrote something that I will be posting on my blog (www.thepencilsharpener.com) tomorrow that touches on this. I have to share your post and the word generator with him.

    Thanks for the fantastic post! And for your whole blog -- from what I have seen so far, I definitely need to read more!

  5. I also got "angry fairies" out of feury even before I read your definition.

    I agree with Darlene Ryan. There is a story--or something--there.

    Today's word verification for me is "piates." Pilates for pirates?

  6. I played around with the German option and got two and a half existing words and one that would be utterly unpronounceable in German. One of the existing German words was "Bordell" (bordello), so check whether any generated words have a real world meaning before using them. Because calling writing about the medieval German village of Bordell being attacked by a dragon that will only a placated by virgin sacrifices would get you a whole lot of unintentional hilarity.

    The Dutch words generated look like real Dutch to me, but then I suspect that the fellow who created the generator is Dutch based on his name.

  7. My fun word for the day is lortler. :)

    It just rolllls off the tongue.

  8. I've always defined decompose as the ultimate in decompressing.

    When I decompress I become one with the earth and thus decomposing is truly what I do to become less stressed.

    P. S. Love your definition of Feury and Darlene's synopsis/story for the definition.

  9. Catherine9:45 PM

    That website seems like so much fun!

    inkmande really stood out to me on your list, but the definition that popped into my head was much different. When I saw "mande" my mind jumped to "-mander" as in salamander, and I pictured some sort of slithering reptile/amphibian that either produces or is made of ink.

    I can see this site not only being useful for titles and made-up words, but also for bringing together ideas that normally would not be associated.


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