Answer: a runcible spoon! Just one of many made-up words and phrases coined by Edward Lear. “Higher-cynths” and “Lower-cynths” are two others.
Made-up words (nouns, verbs, modifiers) used sparingly can add speculation, surprise, poetry and humor to your writing. They work best in children’s books. Just be sure to use them in ways that provide readers with a sense of what they mean.
You can make up nonsense words:
“And oh, what a terrible country it is! Nothing but thick jungles infested by the most dangerous beasts in the entire world — hornswogglers and snozzwangers and those terrible wicked whangdoodles. A whangdoodle would eat ten Oompa-Loompas for breakfast and come galloping back for a second helping.” (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—Roald Dahl)
Combine existing words:
Lewis Carroll created what he called “portmanteau words” (The blending of preexisting words. The word “brunch” and “tween” are examples). Carroll explained:
“For instance, take the two words “fuming” and “furious”. Make up your mind that you will say both words, but leave it unsettled which you will say first. Now open your mouth and speak. If your thoughts incline ever so little towards “fuming”, you will say “fuming-furious”; if they turn, by even a hair’s breadth, towards “furious”, you will say “furious-fuming”; but if you have that rarest of gifts, a perfectly balanced mind, you will say “frumious.”
Turn nouns into verbs, verbs into nouns, adverbs or adjectives:
(Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson, 1993)
Examples: Google it; “Let’s do lunch”; Supposably
You can add humor to character dialogue by using malaprops:
Malapropism was one of Stan Laurel’s comic mannerisms. In “Sons Of The Desert”, for example, he says that Oliver Hardy is suffering a nervous “shakedown” (rather than “breakdown”), and calls the exalted ruler of their group the “exhausted ruler”; in “The Music Box”, he inadvertently asked a policeman, “Don’t you think you’re bounding over your steps?” meaning “stepping over your bounds”
Remember: Always have a motive for using made-up words and phrases. Use them cautiously and in moderation to add flavor to your writing and evoke a specific feeling from your readers.
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