(Caution: the following blog contains colourful language.)
Me: ‘You can find the syllabuses online at…’
Wisearse Student: ‘Isn’t it “syllabi”?’
Me: ‘I do believe that I am speaking English, not Latin. Should I also start saying “military baseis” instead of “military bases” and conjugating every Latinate verb in accordance with Latin grammar rules?’
Nothing irritates me more than haughty, pedantic arsehats wanking on about how they hate grammar errors and misused vocabulary. Of course grammatical errors sometimes make me want to rip out my own spleen, too. That having been said, we all make them.
After years of experience, I have learnt that it is impossible to please everybody. I am sick of attempting to please some petulant little twerps who prick up at every ‘Six Items of Less’ sign at the supermarket. Never fear, we have a solution. Taking a page out of Lewis Carroll’s (chortle) and Stephen Colbert’s (truthiness) books, I’m going to show you how to make your own word.
How to make your own word
Start learning about Latin and Greek suffixes, prefixes, and words. After that, allow your brain’s creative juices to gush forward; see if you can think of possible ways to use words differently.
For example, our word in English ‘pathogen’ comes from pathos (meaning ‘suffering’) and gen (meaning ‘the root’, and it is from this morpheme that we get other words ‘genetic’ and ‘geneology’). Therefore ‘pathogen’ literally means ‘the root of suffering’. Applying this knowledge, theoretically, I could use this word in the following sense:
‘Fuck me, why did I drink tequila again last night? That shit is pathogenic.’
Even worse, ‘carcinogen’ from karkinos (originally meaning ‘crab’ in Greek) and the aforementioned gen. Good gracious… Once again, technically, the following could be plausible.
‘Why would you go to a laundromat? You know those machines are carcinogenic, right?’
Of course, the word ‘crab’ has changed over time to mean different things. Bear in mind, my spin is purely theoretical.
Make portmanteaus. For example, take recent words, like moustinger (that annoying thing that youngsters seem to be doing where they draw moustaches on their fingers and hold them above their upper lips), pornado (when you are caught watching fleshy adult films and launch into an explosive action of covering your dangly parts, your screen, and your shame), or hangry (an emotion with which I am most familiar; it’s when you are so hungry that you become hurricane-like in your fury and, as a result, unrelentingly rage at others).
Move on to foreign words. There are so many words that exist in other languages that we don’t have in English. Assist the English speaking world’s lexical bereavement and think of your own English version. Espirit d’escalier, for example, is a French word that explains when someone insults you, and you think of the perfect comeback, but you are far too late. Now, applying the first step, I get the word tardus (meaning ‘late, or slow’ in Latin) and ‘quip’ (the English word meaning ‘to shoot a comeback’, ‘to gibe’, or just generally ‘to make bitchy remarks’) then I can portmanteau them to take a stab at a possible English equivalent, quipitard.
As I often do, turn to terribly old dictionaries to seek inspiration. For example, a cover-slut was an apron or item of loose clothing used to cover ‘slutishness’ (of course, meaning ‘slovenliness of dress’ in the past), devil’s smile (to mean ‘a kiss’), or faffle (meaning ‘to actively participate in work that consumes shitwads of time, but produces no results’).
There you have it. A combination of any of these four steps may help you to create your own vernacular, thus sending the Conservative Linguistic Party to the bumwhush. If you come up with any words using the steps above, I should love to see them in the comments box.