Webster’s offers two definitions for “neologism.”
1. a new word, usage, or expression
2. a meaningless word coined by a psychotic
Whether created intentionally or inadvertently, neologisms can be both interesting and fun. Technology and social media are filled with neologisms: Google, blog, Internet, cyberspace, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest. Science fiction and fantasy writers love creating them: “Beam me up, Scotty!” warp speed, light saber, “Confusticate and bebother these dwarves!” Even classic authors like Tolkien, Shakespeare, and Lewis Carroll used neologisms in their writing. In fact, one of Carroll’s poems “Jabberwocky” is made up almost entirely of neologisms (Watch and listen to a reading of it HERE.).
And then there are the humorous neologisms, those made up by “psychotics” and just as often readers of the Washington Post. In a neologism contest, The Post asked readers to create new meanings for common words. Here are a few of the winners.
Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
Gargoyle (n), olive-flavored mouthwash.
Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
And a few made-up words with their definitions:
Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.
How have you used neologisms in your writing? Can you add to this list?
Each week, the Washington Post has fun with words. The Style Invitational is The Post’s weekly humor/wordplay contest in genres ranging from neologisms to cartoon captions to elaborate song parodies. A new contest appears every Friday at http://www.washingtonpost.com/2010/07/06/AB15r7D_linkset.html
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