Words Matter

Word Envy

A word is dead when it is said, some say.

I say it just begins to live that day.
Emily Dickinson

I’ve often been accused (ahem) of making up words, especially of the portmanteau variety. Years ago, the nameplate on my desk at work said, “Neologist extraordinaire.”

So I was tickled to see Erin McKean’s TED Talk urging us to go ahead, make up new words.

McKean rightfully argues that we’re always encouraging people to make art and science and technology – why not words?

It’s a perfectly cromulent argument. Let’s embiggen the language. Ignore those squiggly red lines under our typing. Find and create words to get to the heart of the matter.

After all, the Germans have it down, with words like Weltschmerz (despair caused by the state of the world) and Kopfkino (“head cinema” – the act of playing out an entire scenario in your mind). They also have Backpfeifengesicht (a face that deserves to be punched). The Danes have the now-famous hygge. Why can’t we?

What’s your favorite word? What should we import, smoosh, or steal?


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