Tag Archives: Understanding

English as a creative language

21 Feb

The English language allows for the creation of new words more than French.

This linguistic creativity occurs in many ways. For example, there are diverse types of wordplay (see portmanteau words – the most famous ones being those invented by Lewis Caroll in Alice in Wonderlands). Another example would be the many compound words the Americans continually invent – although they often prove difficult to write correctly.

Hundreds of new words are added every year to dictionaries, – e.g. 150 to the Merriam-Webster in 2011. Ordinary people, writers, movie and sitcom writers, inventors in new technologies, brand specialists as well as journalists create indeed many new words constantly, getting most of their inspiration in daily life and the news. It is even said that the multi-awarded animated sitcom The Simpsons has now more influence on the English language than the Bible and Oscar Wilde. Some of these words are likely to become permanent additions to the language, while others may disappear in a few months.

Here is a useful Wikipedia article about the US annual Word of the Year contest that provides a list of prize-winning new words. If you’d like to see all 2011 nominees we discussed in class, – and how and why they were chosen, you can check here on the official website of the contest.

Some words are very political. As those who attended my course of yesterday already know, the 2011 winner is “occupy”, which refers to the Occupy Wall Street Movement. You can use “occupy” in many ways and even start ironic jokes of all kinds with it. Yet, a good, reflexive, insightful illustration of this new phenomenon is the 2012 “Occupy Valentine’s Day” initiative. You can also have an interesting look here at some “Occupy Valentine’s Day cards” that capitalize on several other words and expressions coming from the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.

Other words emerge from social media users who launch new words for fun or participate in getting them viral. One word of that kind that I especially like is the 2011 Word-of-the-Year nominee Tebowing. This word has been created after the name of Tim Tebow, who plays quarterback at the Denver Broncos of the National Football League, and is famous among other things for kneeling during games on one knee in prayer. It all started on a fan’s personal Facebook page and – strikingly, – this became quickly very popular. Later, people were invited to submit their own shots of individual or collective tebowing actions on a website that had been set up by the same fan…. Several dozens of thousands of pictures have already been published there! The loopy definition of Tebowing as provided on this website reads like this:

What is Tebowing?
(vb) to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.

As you can check also on the same Wikipedia page dedicated to the “Word of the Year” annual Contest, the on Facebook currently so popular “lol jk” (=lol, just kidding) has a direct ancestor you might know: “NOT!”. This “NOT!” won the “Word of the Year” competition in the early 1990s.., – you have to pronounce it emphatically and loud after a declarative statement. This directly refers to the movie Wayne’s World starring famous actor Mike Meyers. This huge hit features new American middle-class teanagers in an outrageous and crazy manner and still remains a hallmark of US counterculture. For those who loved the movie or – better!- are interested in how to speak while hanging out with gamer friends, here’s some vocabulary to understand, – if not to use. Have a watch!

There is so much more I could write on this topic. That’s one reason I love the English language, so much to explore.

I think that you too can have fun with English!