We Need More Words

Fun with language.

lexpionage (n): the sleuthing of new words and phrases.

We need more words.

No, not because there’s a shortage — just the opposite. Orwell was right: more words allow us to conceive more ideas, expanding our visions of the universe.

Plus, they’re fun.

fumb (n): the large toe.

wibble (n): a trembling of the lower lip just shy of actually crying.

We speakers of English (especially American English) have such a giddy abandon with which we adopt new words. We gleefully borrow from other languages, giving ourselves fiancées, smorgasbords and bonsais; algebra, karma and llamas. And we also have a glorious tradition of making up words, from Shakespeare to Poe and Dr. Seuss.

Technology has fueled an even bigger linguistic explosion. It started with simple terms like software and mp3; now there are whole online communities of people shouting “w00t!” claiming they’re “1337” and that they’ve “pwned” one another. (Note to the non-cognoscenti: it’s not quite as dirty as it sounds.)

We’ve all made up words. A friend once invented with these gems:

craptacular (adj): spectacularly crappy.

asstastic (adj): pretty much the same as craptacular.

Merriam-Webster Online recently compiled a slew of made-up words, including the above-cited “lexpionage,” “fumb,” and “wibble.” Other wonderfully apt neologisms on their lists include “snirt” (“snow that is dirty, often seen by the side of roads and parking lots that have been plowed”), “headset jockey” (“a telephone call center worker at the other end of a toll-free number”) and “detroitus” (“car parts found alongside the highway”).

And, of course, the perfect word to describe what you’re probably doing right now:

wurfing (v): the act of surfing the Internet at work and rationalizing that it is for work purposes.

Article © 2006 by Michael Duck