Shape&Nature

A Creative Projects Press

A Word by Any Other Name…

Ok, so what IS a word? We’d love to hear what you think. At the end of this blog we list some of our newest words for you to vote on.

For us as editors, we’ve been debating what a word is ever since we set the Favorite Words project in motion. Does anything go? Should we accept “aekfafaerf” —a random hit on my keyboard—for example, if someone sent it to us? Or should we be proper and only take words that appear in the Unabridged Oxford Universal Dictionary? At first we accepted almost anything, but that was before we got deluged with words and requests for bumper stickers. So we started to rethink just what it was we were trying to do.

Some of things we decided were:
o a word means a single word, not a phrase
o no names of people, organizations, businesses, or places
o no brand names or trademarks
o no words run together unless commonly accepted
o no made-up words unless commonly accepted

We don’t have anything against people’s names or the names of places, but we felt proper names were too easy. It’s easy to love your own name, or your family name or beloved’s name, the name of your dog, or your favorite place to visit. It’s easy to have a bumper sticker with your favorite political candidate on it, or your favorite product or your favorite organization. But as a creative projects press, we want to go beyond that. We want a glimpse of how people use words, and what the words say about them, what the words say to the people who hear them or see them, and what the words say about society.

To do that, we needed words that communicate something. And in that regard, we have been overwhelmed— from established old words such as “monocle,” “prestidigitation,” and “cornucopia” to evolving terms that we had never heard of (“nerdalicious,” “fucktard,” “furkids,” “shoople”). Ok, we see these terms on the web, in the Urban Dictionary, or our kids use them. Or they are brand names, like “smoothietastic,” that have started to move into the common language. On that basis, we accept them because they are being used by at least some group of people to communicate. We have accepted VERY long words: “Floccinaucinihilipilification,” for example, which we had to use two bumper stickers for; and “hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia,” (fear of long words!!) which we might need three bumper stickers for. We have accepted names that exist in their own right as words: Frank, Jesus, Chargers. We also accept foreign words as long as they fit the same criteria. So we regretfully refused the Russian version of “Maria” because it is a name, even though we would love to print a Russian word on a bumper sticker!

The hardest decisions have been around made-up and run-together words. So…. is “audiomind” a word? The donor of “audiomind” insists yes; we said no. While “furkids” is also a run-together word, it appears on the web in common usage, so we accepted it. So then what about “hotsauce,” which as far as we know is two words, not one; we see it on the web as one word only as a brand name. What about “oshay,” a variant on “okay” used between a particular husband and wife, but does not seem to be used by anyone else? What about “Changuiro”— a Spanish fusion of two words translating as “hairy” and “monkey”—the donor’s pet nickname when she was a child? Or how about “llama,llama,duck”? (We said no, but we certainly would take “llama” or “duck” by themselves.) Or “soflynmythirties”? We said no.

We have learned a lot from all the words that have poured in, and are grateful for the education that our contributors are giving us. What seems like a simple task is not so simple.

So what do you think? Here are some of our newest words. Should we take them? Why or why not?
o uberiffic
o rock’n’roll
o RIPPY
o Alpha Omega
o memoo (this is young child’s made up word)
o RememberWhen

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One response to “A Word by Any Other Name…

  1. Maria June 4, 2011 at 4:34 am

    Aha! We just found out rippy means redneck hippy. It’s in! Thanks Elayne Hewitt

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