What Do You Call Making Up Words?

In the book Personal Effects: Dark Arts by JC Hutchins (@jchutchins), a guy makes up words hoping people will use them (for example, he makes up the word “foolbiscuit” to mean idiot). My favorite pop-culture instance of this is the character in the movie “Mean Girls” who keeps trying to get everyone to use the word “fetch” to mean “cool.” I wondered if there was a name for that behavior, and sent the question out to my Twitter friends.

I got a lot of great recommendations, which I’ve compiled below. Thanks, everyone! (And I apologize if I’ve missed any. I think I got them all.)

Suggested names for words made up with the hope that others will use them.

GrantBarrett@Fritinancy @grammargirl I don’t have a verb, but new words that are spread by an organized campaign are called “factitious.”

RogueReverend@GrammarGirl Somebody used “Sniglets.” Can’t remember who, but I heard it a long time ago.

robcrogers3@GrammarGirl Call them maladoptisms?

CathleenRitt@GrammarGirl Protologism is a new word created in the hope that it will become accepted. Protologism was coined by Mikhail Epstein in 2003

Fritinancy@GrammarGirl Barbara Wallraff calls them Word Fugitives. I’ve also seen “sniglet.” http://tinyurl.com/yg66md

KeriStevens@GrammarGirl Thank you! Unfortunately, got nothing for you re: pushed neologisms. Egologisms?

Suggested names for people who make up words with the hope that others will use them.

picnicking@GrammarGirl, someone that likes/needs/wants to coin new words for general use? How about ,” popcoiner?”

Grizzlysgrowls@GrammarGirl Egologistics?

dhersam@GrammarGirl neologist wouldn’t work? 🙂 maybe more along the lines of coiner, self-promoter?

ebilflindas@GrammarGirl Neoligist?

walterhanig@GrammarGirl “everbgelist”

karma_musings.@GrammarGirl Maybe… foolbiscuit??? 🙂

mr_steve23@GrammarGirl Vocabulator – one who contributes to the growth of a communal lexicon.

Suggested words for the act of making up new words in the hope that others will use them.

mr_steve23@GrammarGirl Vocabulation – the act of adding new words to a communal lexicon.

parkview@GrammarGirl “neologestation” I does take awhile, after all.

sasmus@GrammarGirl Neoligistics, neoligizing.

CaliEditor@GrammarGirl Why not “neologizing?”

reiheit@GrammarGirl “neologising”. I guess that’s the British spelling, American would be “neologizing”

ScottQuitter@GrammarGirl How about Shakespearing?

aparentlee@GrammarGirl How about “webstering” to describe the practice of adopting or designing new language?

DCRealtorRicki@GrammarGirl bonmoting? moting? creamoting (create + mot)?

BrazilLit@GrammarGirl do you mean “word coining” ?

Fritinancy@GrammarGirl Maybe @GrantBarrett can help you out. (I’d say “sniggling.”)

cswriter@GrammarGirl Lexiculture?

lbgilbert@GrammarGirl The behavior? How about “shameless self-promotion”? 😉

CathleenRitt@GrammarGirl What about “Neologging” (as in flogging a neologism”)

Ainamarth120@GrammarGirl neologising?

leprecoceferoce@GrammarGirl Protologising? From Wikipedia: A protologism is a new word created in the hope that it will become accepted.

WesleyC@GrammarGirl: I like ‘egologisms’ so how about use that as a base? Egologising?

earbox@grammargirl I’d say “liffing” (after The Meaning of Liff), but it sounds too close to “yiffing,” which has..unfortunate connotations.

KeriStevens@GrammarGirl evangelogizing. Yes.

mlv@GrammarGirl neologomania?

oliveshoot@GrammarGirl presumptuousness

RoseZag@GrammarGirl Yes, there is! It falls under a type of ld/autism/speech and language. Sorry, I can’t remember the name!

Finally here are a few interesting related comments.

DeepEddy@GrammarGirl there was an episode of The Sarah Silverman Show about this. I don’t remember if they gave it a name there or not.

averagebetty@GrammarGirl Whatever you call it, it’s the behavior of a toddler. A crafty toddler can have adults calling blankets “binkies” in no time.

MajorBedhead@GrammarGirl Surely there’s a name for that already. Wasn’t that done in A Clockwork Orange?

[And finally, my favorite comment] pianoeditor@GrammarGirl If there isn’t a name for that, you could make one up, hoping people will use it.

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2 Responses to What Do You Call Making Up Words?

  1. rob reinalda says:

    Sniglets was the brainchild of comic Rich Hall.
    The slang language (slanguage?) used in “A Clockwork Orange” was adapted from Russian; there’s a glossary in the back of the book.


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