language

Neologisms ‘R’ us

Sandra Stewart | April 30, 2013

I recently wrote about how words should not be stretched and abused to be made to mean all sorts of things they’ve never meant. It’s true, though, that somehow the English language, voluminous as it is, will sometimes lack a word or phrase for the precise thing or experience you are attempting to describe. In such cases, we’re fans of making it up.

Here are two recent contributions from the Thinkshift team.

Word curtain: a string of words that hides rather than illuminates. When encountering a word curtain, you may feel a vague sense that there is meaning within, and that you may be able to find it if you just think hard enough. Your mental effort will most likely be wasted—word curtains are impenetrable. When spoken, they may be enjoyable as sound sculpture. When written, they signify that you should turn away from whatever you’re reading right now, resist the urge to take a nap, and go for a walk.

Acadrivel: smart-sounding nonsense forming a word curtain around pedestrian or incomplete thoughts, giving them an aura (the writer hopes) of eggheady depth. In fairness, some writers probably do not use acadrivel on purpose. They have no doubt been poisoned by the mad and destructive conventions of academic writing, which are designed to repel clarity as much as possible. (A friend and former colleague recently called to complain that she was being forced to write her public health master’s thesis entirely in passive voice.) Don’t know if you use acadrivel? Read something you’ve written aloud to a generalist friend, and watch for the telltale blank stare or furrowed brow.

See earlier additions to the Thinkshift dictionary here.

  1. Related posts: SHIFTid | New words that precisely define forms of fuzziness

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