"Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;/All mimsy were the borogoves,/And the mome raths outgrabe." From Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
I feel certain authors have been making up words since the invention of writing. Some say Shakespeare alone is responsible for over 3,000 new words. Wikipedia, however, states giving him credit for all these words is a misconception because Shakespeare’s works are often the earliest cited written record. The words may have been used in speech prior to ending up in one of his plays. But whether the actual number is 3,000 or 300, he still made up at lot of words.
Alligator, bedroom and employer, are such common words it’s hard to believe they’ve only been around since Shakespearean times. We seldom hear about the words he made up that didn’t make it, such as attasked, bubukles, relume, and smilets. I like the sound of these words. Maybe someday they’ll get a second chance.
If you’re as fascinated by Shakespeare’s made up words as I am, check out pathguy.com. There’s an extensive list of words and phrases attributed to Shakespeare, along with the play where they can be found. This site is also where I found the list of his words that didn’t work their way into the English language.
Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll is a poem full of nonsense words. Chortled and galumphing are now commonly used words, though none from the above quote seem to have caught on. According to Wikipedia the poem has been translated into many languages. This leads me to wonder how it’s possible to translate a made up word. Does anyone know? Maybe that’s a subject of another blog.
Made up words interest me because my own attempts to create a new word have been unsuccessful. I tried coming up with a sound once. I used something like “aaauufff.” My critique partner thought it was a typo even though he didn’t have any idea what I had been trying to type. If someone who knows me and is familiar with my writing style didn’t understand what I was trying to convey, I felt fairly certain other readers wouldn’t either. I changed it to read, “he emitted a sound like air escaping from a sudden puncture in a tire,” or something similar. "Aaauufff" was a much shorter description.
Another attempt to coin a word was one I borrowed from my grandson. (Yes, I am the type of person who would steal a word from a three-year-old.) While playing with his trains one day, he used the word scrumbling. I liked the sound of it and wrote it down. Recently, when trying to come up with an action word, I saw the note I’d written and decided scrumbling was exactly what I was looking for. I was crushed when I checked and found out that scrumbling was already a term used for free-form crocheting. That was not my intended usage. I had to settle for a much-used word like crumpling.
How do you feel when you run across a made up word when reading? Have you created a new word in something you’ve written?
Thanks for stopping by.
Tags: Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll, Shakespeare, made up words,