From my posts found in the Wayback Machine, originally published on March 16, 2010
As a long-time lover of words and language, I’m both amused and disgusted by the popular trend of just making up new words as we need them. I’m amused on one hand, because it’s a constant source of entertainment for me (it doesn’t take much), but I’m also disgusted in a way. I’m disgusted because I respect the language, and I want to preserve it as much as possible.
I cringe at the thought of children growing up today, reading signs, watching television and reading things on the internet, and taking those as the way it’s supposed to be. In a way, the media and advertising act as a surrogate teacher for grammar and usage. Then those kids grow up and pass those mistakes on. It’s no wonder the problem is getting worse. The same goes for spelling, too – but don’t get me started, please.
It started being amusing for me when President Bush’s “Bushisms” became popular. Love him or hate him, this guy can’t get a phrase right to save his life. But there was the occasional made-up word as well, like “mis-underestimated.” What?? That’s when I began to notice a new Do-It-Yourself method by all sorts of famous people.
This is creativity at its finest: you simply grab a prefix or suffix at random, tack it onto any verb or adjective you have lying around (even another prefix or suffix will do), and Voila! – you now look smarter than you actually are! You should try it – it’s very ‘gratificationary!’
So, what’s a person supposed to do? I can’t change it, and I know it. Remember that prayer about serenity?
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
The trouble is, I don’t WANT to accept it, not for all the serenity in the world. But I guess I must, so I say if you can’t beat ‘em, then have fun with it!
So, fun we shall have. Next week, we’ll start a new bit of fun called “Wordisms,” which by the way, is apparently now a word. According to the “Urban Dictionary,” which tracks these things, Wordism is “The art of deriving words from seemingly nowhere, by utilizing the full extent of the English language.” I prefer to think of a Wordism as the made-up word itself, not the art of making it up. That’s okay because as long words can be constructed however we want, so can their definitions. It’s only ‘properistic,’ right?
We want your help. Be on the lookout for any suspicious word activity, especially by famous people. If you hear something you think needs challenged, send it to us (and the abuser’s name, if you can). We’ll send it to our crack staff of retired English teachers for examination. We can always use more English teachers, too, so let us know if you would like to be an official word inspector. We’ll also consult with a retired dictionary. We simply don’t trust the new ones.
If you have a Wordism you want to submit to us, email it to
firstname.lastname@example.org, with “Wordism” in the subject line. Who knows, maybe your word will get ‘publified’ in our next issue!