Making Stuff Up

Happy Sunday (or whenever you’re reading this), Everyone.

Today I’d like to look a little bit deeper into a question that I’d encountered during the week.

Do you make words up?

Now I know some of you out there are thinking, “But Ken. You’re a writer. You make things up all the time.”

This is true, but what I’m talking about is making up brand new words.

Think “Jabberwocky.”

In the community where the question was posed, some folk did and some didn’t. I fell into the former category – and not just because I tend to write Sci-Fi where the sky is the limit when it comes to language.

I make up words because the ones I’ve got just don’t quite get me there sometimes. Sometimes I want to create a sound. Sometimes there’s a feeling in my head that I want to convey on the page but again, nothing quite matches what I’m looking for.

In both cases, the first thing I try to do is find the closest real-world analog that I can. For sounds, this is easier for me. I’ll play back the sound over and over in my head until I know exactly the sound I want then I dump it on the page. Most of the time I do this phonetically, then when I see it on the page, I’ll tidy it up.

Feelings take a similar tack. Typically, I’ll know what the analog is, and I’ll lean heavily on that word, but I’ll tweak it depending if I want a sharper or softer edge on it.

“Edge” is used a little out of it’s usual definition here. What I’m looking for is either the way it reads, or rolls off the tongue. Shudder and Judder, I think are a good side by side comparison.

Now it’s true that those two words already exist and have different meanings. I’d like to to stop a minute to say each word out loud. Take your time about it. Savor the feel of each word on your lips and tongue.

You feel that? Your mouth is doing different things. The “Sh” is smoother then the harder “Ju” sound.

Think of a shudder with a sharper edge to it.

And, yes, I realize that in this instance, it looks like I’m taking an established word and I’m slapping a new meaning on it.

Maybe I am, but if it conveys what I as the author want to convey, then it’s not wrong.

Right now, there are language purists out there who suddenly want to spaang something off a certain writer/blogger’s noggin without knowing exactly why, but hear me out.

All of our words – every last one – was made up at one point.

It wasn’t as if, when Humanity discovered fire, they said, “Yup. That’s Fire.”

They didn’t have a word for it at the time. Eventually someone called it Fire and the word stuck. Not only did it stick, it evolved.

Now I’m not saying that by making up words, I’m evolving the language. Or maybe I am.

That’s how language evolves. It doesn’t evolve in a vacuum to be sure, but the baseline is there. It starts with coming up with a word that fits – even if it doesn’t exist yet.

Thanks for reading. Be safe out there. Be Excellent to Each other – and yourself.

I’ll see you on Thursday.


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Predators in Petticoats