Is it a word?
Google, Mankini, Slanket, Snuggie, Klout, Hoover?
Have you ever thought about how a company launches its product and carries out a branding exercise? Seth Godin has written some great books about this, including his best-selling . Some do it so well that as time goes by, their trademarked brand name enters the dictionary, as a noun and then, even a verb and people forget the original etymology. To “hoover”, for example is now probably the preferred term over “vacuum clean”. In this age of online marketing, introducing a new Purple Cowkeyword into the lexicon with your brand name makes perfect sense, pay careful attention to your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and get everyone googling your invented search term as the perfect tool to increase your web traffic. Internet marketing is big business now as digital marketers invest huge amounts of time and effort into making sure that the content they write for their website makes sure that they rank higher in the search engines than their competitors for customers who are searching for their products. Even talking about this makes me think of the invented word "klout" which is a handy little measuring tool to monitor your amount of influence on the social networks, so you can see your "klout score". A recent example of this is the simple product of a blanket with sleeves known as the “slanket”. This product has sold millions. What about the “mankini”? Check those two out on the Keyword Tool – you’ll be surprised! But see how many people google “google”.
So, even before the internet, people were grappling for words to describe the world around them and the way they perceive their world affects the vocabulary they invent. In his book, Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages , the author, linguist Guy Deutscher, discusses the lack of words referring to colour in the Odyssey and the Iliad and wonders whether the ancient Greeks could see colour as well as we do or if they simply hadn’t thought of the right words.
Choosing the right words is a fundamental skill that will shape your success, whether you want to choose a name to brand your product, to write persuasive ad copy to advertise your product, to describe the taste of your wine or the smell of your perfume; whether you need to choose the right words for your CV or resume or in an interview, choose those 3 important words that describe you and land you the job, or whether you need to write a poem for someone special that says those 3 little words. Sometimes the literal meanings of words can seem crazy and you need to understand the idiom, so frustrating when you're trying to learn a foreign language.
Some languages have words that translators struggle to find the equivalent of. In Finnish there are over 40 words for different types of snow and they are listed here.
How many types of snow can you name?
It seems, from talking to my cosmopolitan friends, that the French have no word for “shallow”, the Italians struggle to find the right word for “rockpool” or to make the distinction between a boyfriend/girlfriend and a fiancé/fiancée, just as the English do not have a good word for the German word “schadenfreude” from the German “Schade” meaning “adversity or harm” and Freude meaning “joy”. “Schadenfreude” means to take enjoyment in someone else’s misfortune (perhaps “gloat” comes close, but it doesn’t quite get the meaning right). It is apparently an urban myth that George W Bush said that the French have no word for “entrepreneur”.
Other travellers have discovered words that they have been fascinated by as their own language has failed to put a label on a familiar experience. See here for more examples.
In English, sometimes the negative opposite version of a word continues although the original version becomes obsolete, for example, “ruthless” continues, but not “ruth”; “uncouth” but not “couth”; “nonchalant” but not “chalant” ; “unwieldly” but not “wieldly”.
In Icelandic, they have two extra words for types of horse-gait, where in English we have “walk”, “trot”, “canter” and “gallop”, they have two extra types of walk added, the tölt, a four-beat lateral ambling gait and the skeið , flugskeið or "flying pace".
So, I got to thinking of all the different types of human gait that there are and the words that should be introduced into our language to describe them…
Impace – (v. intr) to impatiently pace back and forth (we’ve all done this…)
Malinger – (v. intr) to deliberately restrain your pace to allow others to overtake you, knowing that they are unaware of a looming confrontation, eg, on your way to the boardroom, casually stop off at the watercooler and let the keen ones overtake and take the flack first.
Casaunter – (v. intr) to walk nonchalantly in a mock-casual way, hands in pockets and casually looking in shop windows, maybe whistle a bit, in the awareness that you are being watched and feel slightly self-conscious, which you must cover up. This walk is often practised by groups of tourists descending from coaches, pretending to be already familiar with wherever they have just been dumped.
Stompheed – (v. intr) to walk very loudly, usually briskly in heels, as a warning that you’re making your way down the corridor, to give staff plenty of time to take heed and look busy before you arrive. The correct response is for staff to seem surprised to see you. (Obviously, if you’re a man and you enter in high-heels, the surprised look will actually be really quite genuine. Or it should be.)
OK, now I’m on a roll with this whole new-word inventory malarkey…
Intergreet – (v. intr) to act awkwardly in the time between seeing someone you know approaching, but not yet being close enough to acknowledge them. It involves deliberate avoidance of eye-contact, followed by a sudden outburst of mock-surprise greeting.(opp. disintergreet (v. intr)– to abort the greeting process and just walk past whatever-her-name-was).
Delaygate –(v. tr) to deliberately delay a response in the hope that someone else will deal, eg when you all hear the phone ring, or a volunteer is asked for, or the boss issues an instruction, but you hope your tardiness will delegate the task to a more eager young upstart than yourself. Hopefully, the one that took the flack in the boardroom earlier, whilst you were getting your water.
Guestation – the length of time that you are in a state of agitation prior to the arrival of a guest, having to tidy the house and then not being able to do anything or go anywhere as the time of arrival approaches. Longer periods of guestation are involved with closer relatives, particularly in-laws, who will induce a state of anxiety and house-cleaning that can last up to a month before the actual day of arrival.
Proxyplain – to complain deliberately loudly about something to someone within earshot of the person about whom you are actually complaining. This is usually followed by mock surprise and embarrassment to conceal the smug satisfaction felt when the accused person shows that they did in fact hear you loud and clear.
Tutask – a task that you have been asked to do that you don’t really think needs doing, eg hoovering under the bed. (See also relinquest a tutask - request the staff to get on with a useless task that relinquishes you of it).
Butsuade – to persuade someone to do something by counteracting their arguments, with “but you’re always saying that…”, eg, a child who wants a fancy new phone will tell you in fauxstration that you always want them to stay in touch.
Curteous – to be polite in the briefest way possible.
To be continued, when I’ve done a bit more people-watching.