Friday, January 29, 2010

The Neologisms Evolved and They Have a Plan

We're friends, now, right? We can talk about things? I mean, really talk?

Okay, good. The English language, she is beautiful, no? And it is our job, as writers, to protect her.

Language is a living thing, of course. It evolves over time to fit our e'er-changing society, and well it should. But there's a difference between evolution and scientific perversion--that's how our civilization ends up getting destroyed by robots.

I am involved in an organization that is continually advertising and discussing "webinars." And whenever I see this word, I get from my computer, go down the stairs, walk into the kitchen, open the utensil drawer, and stick a fork in my eye. The pain is exquisite, but better than a webinar.

Somewhere in this world walks free the person who decided to call the second Alvin and the Chipmunks movie "The Squeakquel." Now, we're not even going to discuss the fact that there is an Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, and that unless I start instilling a film snobbery in my little boy now it will be my lot to see such Squeakquels. And, frankly, I'm of two minds about the name. On the one hand, it clearly heralds the downfall of Western civilization. On the other hand, there's something obnoxiously clever about it, which is more than we had any right to hope from Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Maybe this reveals my bias, but I think it's the business world that's done the most harm; they've given us incentivize and synergize and deliverables and empower and impact-as-a-verb, not to mention bring to the table and out of the box and win-win. And of course, webinar. This is all jargon, the lexical equivalent of bringing a blow-up doll to life and electing it to the Senate. It's our job as writers to protect and celebrate the language, and keep unholy words like these from infecting us. That way, when the robots come, they'll take the incentivizers first.


  1. yes, language and writers--it's both a blessing and a curse. However it is constantly evolving, isn't it? I mean you "friended" me on facebook didn't you?

  2. Webinars? Pass the fork.

    But Lisa has a point. Language is a plastic thing. And with technology enabling instant communication between just about everyone, writers now have a minority vote when it comes to ruling on what language gets said and used.

    "Squeakquel" I kinda liked.

  3. I do enjoy some of the words my kids make up. Like the other day I was trying to browbeat my daughter into reading a novel-in-verse, and she said, "It's too writey." She went on: "Poetry is so..." Then she paused, remembered what I'm aspiring to do with my life, and looked at me with eyes of pity.

  4. Anne, you don't have nerve endings in your eyeball. So poke away because it shouldn't hurt, unless that is the point of course. My favorite made up words...awesomeness and adorkable. I like A words.

  5. I enjoy messing around with language, but the "spork" just pokes me the wrong way... I know it is a bit different because this utensil has become a tangible noun, unlike the "squeakquel" that only seems relative to furry little boogers with high pitched voices. Regardless, sporks make me cringe...


  6. What does the suffix "nar" mean in Latin anyway? That horrible sound is what is so jarring. If we punish the person who came up with webinar, we'll have to punish the person who decided the best metaphor for the internet was a spider's web. Was that Al Gore? English is a terrible language anway. How are we to uphold it when it is just a "mishmash-hodge podge" of languages. Trying to teach my daughter to speak English was never very inspiring. "Handle" for something you grab with your hand and "remote control" for a television's magic wand are really not very creative.
    Now that my daughter has (from the inspiration of a short lesson in Genesis and the lack of neighbors her age) named every bird in our yard. She has named them everything from Isa to Cawcaw. Naming may be the first and last creative gift to the language after all.

  7. Don't get me wrong--I love a good neologism. Emphasis on "good." My recent favorite--in reference some supplement pushers crying out against the discovery of a viral cause to an illness--"quacklash."

  8. Oh, Polly, that's awesome. Wouldn't that be a great scene in a book?