aka: Grokking The Horrorshow
"She kicked him in the left kneeheel, wrapped her elbutt across his mouth and tangled her hand in his afthead hair."A made-up word. Like all the other words, but new. We like 'em. We make them. Not to be confused with Personal Dictionary, which is pretending existing words mean something else. Compare Neologizer, for when using a large number of these is a character trait. Supertrope to Portmanteau.
— Fast Eddie, after many Tropers tried to think of words for the back of the knee, elbow, and head.note
open/close all folders
- On alt.comics.2000ad, newcomer writer Simon Spurrier referred to a troll as an "arsegike", misspelling "arsehole" by typing the letters to the left of some of the ones he required. The term has now joined the standard 2000 AD lexicon, alongside phrases such as "zarjaz", "grexnix" and "Squaxx dekk Thargo".
- Tom Poes: This Dutch comic strip is well known for creating many neologisms in the Dutch language.
- Lobo frequently calls people "bastitches".
- Peanuts famously coined the term "security blanket."
- The Far Side: One cartoon featured a classroom of cavemen, with the professor pointing at a picture of a Stegosaur's tail spikes: "Now this end is called the thagomizer ... after the late Thag Simmons." After it was found out that no term had indeed been coined for the spikes, "thagomizer" has since semi-seriously entered paleontologists' lexicon. Seriously enough that it's appeared in Nature.
- Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin, complaining about scientists' unimaginative naming, says that The Big Bang should have been called "The Horrendous Space Kablooie." Some physicists use that term now.
- Dilbert has coined terms like Pointy-Haired Boss for any clueless boss that has no real management skill.
- Arguably, "Gothically"/"Goffically" and quite a few of the other words (usually verbs or adjectives) in the infamous My Immortal.
- Forbiden Fruit: The Tempation of Edward Cullen gives us "plimpled". It's apparently a way of speaking, that can inexplicably be done "mutely".
- Legolas By Laura: "and then Legolas was happy for somerising."
Films — Animation
- Mary and Max: Max indulges in this, going so far as to write a letter to the Oxford Dictionary suggesting some new additions, namely "Confuzzled" (confused/puzzled), "Snirt" (snow/dirt), and "Smushables" (groceries that were smushed at the bottom of the bag).
Films — Live-Action
- Mary Poppins: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
- The Producers: "Creative accounting." In widespread use during the sale-and-leaseback frenzy of the late-1980s boom, a process which like so much accounting at the time, had the actual effect of converting equity into debt, to be serviced by future revenue streams already allocated to other purposes.
- Harold Ramis notes on the Ghostbusters commentary track, "I take full credit for turning 'slime' into a verb."
- Star Wars gave us the droid, a shortened form of android even though it applies to all autonomous robotic creatures in the Star Wars universe, not just those that resemble humanoids.
- A Clockwork Orange: "Horrorshow," a corruption of 'khorosho', the Russian word for 'good'. This book had an entire Future Slang, much of it based on Russian, some of which has trickled into common use. "Ultraviolence" and "droog" are some of the more popular ones.
- Brave New World: though it didn't create the word 'Soma' (Huxley borrowed the term for the unknown drug that ancient Hindus used to "bestride the Universe"), it is responsible for its modern popularity and connotations.
- Finnegans Wake: Source of the nonce word 'quark', later used by scientists to refer to a subatomic particle. It comes from a mispronunciation of the word "quart," and is not related to the German word Quark, meaning a type of cheese.
- At the time, some scientists (among them Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann of Caltech), were working on a theory that explained the way that protons, neutrons, and other hadrons as being composed of smaller particles. Feynman referred to them as "partons," since they were "parts" of the proton (and "on" being the Greek suffix meaning "thing" that can be seen in "electron," "proton," neutron," etc); but Gell-Mann objected that this was an unholy combination of Latin and Greek roots, and sought to come up with a better name. He eventually started calling them "quarks" after a line in Finnegan's Wake, and it caught on. Gell-Mann was being a little weird, but you know what they say, physicists have strange quarks.
- William Gibson coined "Cyberspace" in a short story (incorrectly attributed to Neuromancer). Gibson says that he was able to imagine it because he had absolutely no idea how computers worked; in fact, he was said to be disappointed by the real thing when he finally got around to getting a computer. "Meat puppet" was a Shout-Out to a band name. The same concept may or may not have been intended when the band was named, but Gibson definitely popularised the term.
- Peter Pan: Introduced the name 'Wendy', which was not a common English name before J. M. Barrie's character (it might have been an occasional shortening of the Welsh name "Gwendolyn," which is usually shortened to "Gwen" nowadays). It was derived from a toddler's inability to pronounce the letter R properly, so when she called JMB her "friendy," it became "fwendy-wendy."
- Stranger in a Strange Land: 'Grok': Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed, to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science, and it means as little to us (because of our Earthly assumptions) as color means to a blind man. Author Robert A. Heinlein also coined 'waldo' as a term for remotely controlled robotic arms in a short story of the same name. Specifically, a "waldo" is a device which is controlled by moving a model of the device; usually a pair of robotic hands that are controlled by sensors in a pair of gloves. This allows things to be worked on remotely or for someone to control a much larger/smaller version of their own hands.
- Through the Looking-Glass: Lewis Carroll invented quite a few nonsense words and assigned most of them definitions. Some of them have become adopted as real words:
- He coined the term 'portmanteau' to describe a word that is the combination of two other words (and therefore a subset of neologisms). It was already in use in English, but only as a term for a suitcase or traveling-bag.
- He was also responsible for "chortle," although the modern usage is different from the way he used it — "a cross between a snort and a chuckle".
- "Vorpal" was adopted by would-be decapitators everywhere after Gary Gygax popularized it in Dungeons & Dragons.
- William Shakespeare invented numerous words and phrases during his career, "doorknob" and "eyeball" being only two of them. He also popularized the name Ophelia, which had been invented by Jacopo Sannazaro in the 15th century. Though many words attributed to him in fact are of earlier origin, Shakespeare indeed had a gift for coining new vocabulary. He did not let such a pesky thing as the lack of a relevant word stop him.
- Karel Capek's play R.U.R. introduced the term "robot," meaning "indentured worker" in his native Czech, to mean an Artificial Human used to perform menial tasks, although these robots were biological. (According to Capek, it was his brother, Josef who suggested him the word). The term became universal in science fiction writing, and eventually came to use in the scientific mainstream to describe any machine that emulates a function performed by the human body.
- Isaac Asimov coined "robotics" and used the term "fundie" as an abbreviation for "fundamentalist" decades before it came into widespread usage.
- It's worth noting that Asimov coined it accidentally: he assumed somebody else had already used it, due to its logical construction.
- Acording to the Oxford English Dictionary he also coined "positronic" as an analogue to "electronic" (as in the "positronic brains" of his robots) and "psychohistory", in the usage of predicting the future through mathmatics and the reactions of human masses. You would have to read his books to understand that last one. ( I am aware it has another use, namly the psychological history of people. He coined it as I have described it, however.)
- A 1530 translation of The Bible misinterpreted the name "Azazel" as "ez ozel," literally meaning "goat that departs." This eventually changed through Memetic Mutation to "escape goat," then to the modern "scapegoat." So, the word scapegoat literally originated from a Rouge Angle Of Satin. Azazel is a combination of two words meaning 'goat' and 'disappear'. The Latin Vulgate translates the Hebrew as capro emissario, or 'emissary goat' or 'scapegoat'. The Greek Septuagint translates the Hebrew as 'the one carrying away (averting) evil.'
- 1984: Big Brother, doublethink, unperson, doubleplusungood and others, mostly derived from Newspeak. There are plenty of other examples from the novel, but "doublespeak" is a Beam Me Up, Scotty!.
- Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, the 1981 book by Gary Wolfe, (which was the basis for the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit) introduced the word "Toon" as a name for a cartoon-type character. This is also a common synonym for one's avatar or character in various role-playing games.
- The word "ansible" was coined by Ursula K. Le Guin, and has since been appropriated by a great deal of science fiction for any device which allows faster-than-light communication, including right here on this site. (Supposedly it was a corruption of the term "answerable". Also an anagram of "lesbian", though the actual relevance of that tidbit is disputed.)
- The word "baticeer" was coined by Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket, in the A Series of Unfortunate Events books. It mean "one who trains bats" — and it's an anagram of the name "Beatrice," who Lemony Snicket dedicates all his books to.
- A Christmas Carol gave us the term "Scrooge" for a miser.
- The nonsense word "fnord" was first used in the Principia Discordia, where it represented no clear meaning or part of speech and was never presented in any sort of identifying context. Illuminatus! popularized it, using it as a subliminal Brown Note. Today, it's used more as a shibboleth for Discordians and assorted fellow-travellers than anything else.
- J. R. R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings established "dwarves" as the standard plural of "dwarf" in High Fantasy; Tolkien had a valid philological reason for wanting to change the accepted spelling ("dwarfs" is a bad plural formation, and it's properly "dwarrow" from the Middle English formation). "Elves" was already the standard plural of "elf", but Tolkien did popularize the adjective form "elven" instead of the then-standard "elfin".
- According to some sources, Tolkien was under the impression that the plural was "dwarves" when writing The Hobbit. Then in LOTR he used the name "Dwarrowdelf" (delving of dwarves, the translation of "Khazad-dûm" into common speech), and then in the appendices he claimed as the translator that he always meant to do that.
- The Meaning of Liff, by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd, consists entirely of invented meanings for various place names. Entries include "Sheppey" (a distance roughly 7/8 of a mile, the closest distance at which sheep remain picturesque) and Zeerust.
- An idea directly swiped, without attribution (but with a belated and muted apology) from Paul Jennings's article Ware? Wye? Watford? which contains such gems as Letchworth: n. A libertine, and Wembley: adj. ('I feel a bit wembley') used of the feeling before taking to bed.
- According to Don't Panic: Douglas Adams and the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Neil Gaiman, it was directly swiped from Adams's English teacher, although Adams later aknowledged that he may have swiped it from Jennings. Ironically, it was then swiped from Adams and Lloyd by an ad agency under the name "Oxtail English Dictionary" - the title Lloyd came up with when using them as space fillers in the Not the Nine O'Clock News calendar prior to making them a book.
- The book Brain Droppings by George Carlin has a list of "Words and phrases we should have," including "pocketry = a garment's pockets," "firmth = firmness" and "unpark = drive away."
- The narrator of Dostoevsky's novel Demons coins the term "Shigalyovism" ("Shigalyovschina", in Russian), describing the ideology of a minor character. A member of the town's secret cadre of nihilists, who range from laughable idiots to terrifying psychopaths, Shigalyov argues that it is legitimate to subject 90% of humanity to abject slavery in order that the remaining 10% may enjoy a utopian paradise. The term came into common usage in Russia during the Stalinist era, for obvious reasons.
- Harry Potter and "Muggle" — being a fairly obvious nonsense word, it had been used by other people first, but J. K. Rowling gave us the definition of "normal person outside of the group; outsider." The closest English equivalent is "gentile", which can refer to any outsider of a certain sec, be it a non-Jew or a non-Mormon. Of course, ethnic minorities usually have their own word for an outsider, e.g. goyim (Yiddish), gaijin (Japanese), and gadje (Romani). The fact that they all start with a "g" is a coincidence.
- The word dates back further to 1920s New Orleans slang for marijuana.
- Edward Lear and 'runcible'... whose definition he never hinted at. 'Runcible spoon' from "The Owl and the Pussycat" has been adopted as a phrase, but no one can agree on whether a runcible spoon is a spork, a spork with a knife edge on the handle, or some other kind of cool spoon. None of these can be right anyway, since he used 'runcible' to modify other nouns, so whatever it meant isn't spoon-exclusive.
- The movements of Spinfer and Mawk in Welkin Weasels are described as "smooling". The narrator points out that this isn't a real word but it describes the action perfectly.
- The Brazilian author João Guimarães Rosa (The Devil to Pay in the Backlands) is well known for using a lot of neologisms in his works, mostly of them very hard to translate, since they are all made-up to work in Portuguese.
- Gulliver's Travels introduced the word 'yahoo' for a stupid loutish person, 'lilliputian' to describe something very small, and the lesser used 'brobdingnagian' to describe something very large.
- The Roman poet Catullus coined the word 'basiationes' as a more decorative version of 'basia' - 'kiss', making this trope Older Than Feudalism.
- The Dresden Files has the eponymous Harry Dresden, resident snarker and coiner of silly names. "Chlorofiend" indeed... (Immediately subverted because nobody knew what a chlorofiend was, so he had to revert to plant monster.)
- Richard Dawkins coined the term 'meme' in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, long before it had ever appeared on the internet.
- James Fenimore Cooper is generally credited with either inventing or widely popularizing the name "Cora" in his novel The Last of the Mohicans.
- Steve Miller spoke of the "Pompatus of Love" in "The Joker" and the earlier, less well-known song "Enter Maurice." This word, spelled "pompitous" in the printed lyrics of "Enter Maurice," was a corruption of "puppetutes" (a portmanteau of "puppet" and "prostitutes"), which was used in the Medallions' 1954 hit "The Letter."
- Unhalfbricking, the title of Fairport Convention's third album, came about in the course of a word game the band were playing to pass the time between gigs. The idea was for each player in turn to add one letter at either end of a word, in such a way that the resulting fragment could be the beginning of a real dictionary word but not such a word itself.
- Stephen Colbert. While "Truthiness" already had an archaic (different from the modern) definition, "Wikiality" is a whole new word.
- In 1995, Conan O'Brien was looking for a word to outwit the censors. He came up with the word "Crunk". Ice-T used the word several times during the broadcast. Nowadays, there's barely a rapper alive that doesn't have "crunk" in his vocabulary... and there's now even an entire genre of music named after it...
- As discussed on an episode of QI, the sketch show Not the Nine O'Clock News once used "flange" as the collective noun for gorillas — as in "a pride of lions," "a pod of dolphins," "a flange of gorillas." It was just a joke, such as you might expect from a comedy show, but apparently some people took it at face value and the term has been adopted by academics, but to refer to baboons. The collective noun for gorillas is congress.
Stephen Fry: What's the collective noun for a group of baboons?
Rich Hall: The Pentagon.
- On Not Necessarily the News, Rich Hall created a segment which encouraged viewers to write in examples. The segment was called "Sniglets", which was defined as "Words that should be in the dictionary but aren't." Some examples include
- Krogt — the silver coating on lottery tickets or game pieces that you scratch off with a quarter
- Lactomangulation — opening the "illegal" side (the one that says "open other end") on a milk carton
- Bovilexia — The uncontrollable urge to lean out the car window and yell "Moo!" when passing cows.
- Carperpetuation — repeatedly vacuuming a piece of lint or other object stuck on a carpet, reaching over and picking it up, examining it, then throwing it back down to give the vacuum one more chance.
- Flopcorn — kernels of corn in a bag of popcorn that fail to pop. Interestingly enough, a maker of microwave popcorn used the term in a printed advertisement. (There is a word for unpopped popcorn in the business. They're called "old maids".)
- At least one of his made up words — Spork, the half-fork, half-spoon one gets from Kentucky Fried Chicken — has indeed been accepted into general usage.
- Older Than They Think: The word "spork" appeared in the 1909 supplement to the Century Dictionary, where it was described as a trade name and "a 'portmanteau-word' applied to a long, slender spoon having, at the end of the bowl, projections resembling the tines of a fork".
- In Blackadder, Edmund torments Dr. Samuel Johnson by making up words such as "contrafibularities", "anaspeptic", "phrasmotic", and "interphrastically".
- Monty Python's Flying Circus:
- The Internet term "spam" was derived from the infamous "SPAM" sketch.
- They're also responsible for the lesser-known word "splunge", which has the somewhat baffling definition of "yes or no at the same time without being indecisive."
- Van Kooten En De Bie: This Dutch comedic duo inspired several words and expressions which are difficult to translate in English.
- The DROD series extends "once, twice, thrice" as follows: quarce, quince, sence, septence, octence, novence. All of these combine Latin numeric prefixes with the "-ce" ending of the first three. They have begun to show up in other places outside the series.
- NetHack uses the word "cornuthaum" for a wizard's pointed hat. The hat existed in media before, but the word was specifically made up for use in NetHack.
- Septerra Core. The title contains "Septerra" which is the name of the planet the game takes place on. However, "Septerra", while a made-up word, can be taken to mean "Seven Lands", which is Fridge Brilliance because the game contains exactly that.
- Webcomic artist David Willis accidentally invented the exclamation "wiigii!" by typing the word "woohoo!" with the right hand shifted one spot to the left. It became the favorite expression of the title character in It's Walky!.
- Koan Of The Day often prefixes words with "zen," creating neologisms such as "zenlightenment" or "zentertaining."
- Google. Its usage as a verb has become so widespread that it is now in the dictionary.
- Named after googol, which is also a neologism, and means 1.0 * 10^100, a one followed by a hundred zeroes and was invented by a 9 year old boy. The Other Wiki has details.
- And of course, there is the googolplex. The name of the headquarters of google, this is the number 1, followed by a googol of zeros.
- Woot. Not as famous as Google, but it has found its way into a number of dictionaries. WOOT purportedly stands for We Own the Other Team. Alternatively, it's a portmanteau of "Wow, loot!"
- If you need proof that TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Vocabulary (and the vocabularies of everyone around you), "Narm" (for what is technically referred to as "bathos"note ) and the verb "to xanatos" have already left their mark on the Internet.
- Much like the "flange of baboons" example above, RPGMP3 is attempting to popularize "shower" as the collective term for a group of bastards. Perhaps after this exchange in an episode of Father Ted? ("Shower" is common Irish slang.)
Father Ted: What was it he used to say about the needy? He had a term for them...
Father Dougal: A shower of bastards.
- Twitter: "Tweet". There's currently a battle of wills going on at the New York Times to decide whether to use it as a verb in stories referring to Twitter, or just go on saying that someone "said on their Twitter account" blah blah blah. Just as long as they don't use "twat" for the past tense form. Unless they do it intentionally. See also the question "how many tweets make a twat?" which only really works in British English.... On the other hand, "Tweet" has an older meaning as an onomatopoeia for a weak chirping sound, so it's not exactly a new word.
- SMBC Theater presents: the Shitbag. Combination of shithead and douchebag.
- Warning: It will eat your fucking Olive Garden leftovers and leave its laundry in your hamper like you're its goddamn maid.
- Suggested treatment is a direct injection of cold motherfucking steel directly to the shitbag's perpetually smug face.
- Not even remotely attributable to SMBC — it's been British Slang for decades. It's shorthand for an insult: someone who is "a bag of shit" (interchangeable with "Scumbag").
- The term "grinch" has entered public lexicon thanks to How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. The term means someone who hates a holiday (particularly Christmas), and tries to make it miserable for everybody else.
- The Simpsons has produced a number of neologisms which have come into varying degrees of common use.
- In particular, Retirony and Perfectly Cromulent Word are named for terms originating on the show, as well as the popular remark "Meh."
- Note that the Wiktionary link for "embiggens" dates the coinage at 1884: the Simpsons merely popularized it.
Jebediah Springfield: A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.
- Don't forget "Jerkass!"
- The Simpsons' use of "D'oh" wasn't new. It was a copy of James Finlayson's usage of the term. For those who don't recognize the name, Finlayson was a friend of Stan Laurel and frequent actor in Laurel and Hardy films — usually as the moustachioed antagonist. He introduced both "D'oh" and the Double Take to comedy film.
- Titan Maximum's "replacement", Titan Megamum.
Troy Hammerschmidt: Titan Maximum, say hello to Titan Megamum. The most advanced robot ever built and the perfect match for the most handsome pilot ever born.
Sasha Caylo: Titan Megamum? Megamum isn't even a word.
Troy Hammerschmidt: Neither is vaginacillin, but that didn't stop you from using it as the title for your third album... or your fragrance line.
- People with various mental/neurological conditions and brain injuries are prone to forming neologisms of their own, which are often consistent enough that families and friends learn and use them. Examples of conditions where this could happen include autism, the aphasias, schizophrenia, post-stroke or brain-injury, and the various speech/language disorders. Typical toddlers, while learning to speak, may also form neologisms.
- Quiz. Opinions differ, but a commonly held belief is that the word came up because of a bet that someone could create a word and have it be absorbed into the public lexicon within a week. It was chalked on the walls around Dublin sometime in the 1800s, and was soon talked about enough -- by people assuming that the act was some kind of test -- that it made its way into the lexicon.
- In 2004, George W. Bush referred to "the Internets" in a presidential debate. In 2006, Alaska senator Ted Stevens defined the internet as "a series of tubes." Today, "the tubes of the internets" — sometimes shortened to "the intertubes" — is a perfectly cromulent expression in some circles, and has even been used by the MythBusters.
- The word blurb originated in 1907. American humorist Gelett Burgess's short 1906 book Are you a bromide? was presented in a limited edition to an annual trade association dinner. The custom at such events was to have a dust jacket promoting the work and with, as Burgess' publisher B. W. Huebsch described it:
"the picture of a damsel — languishing, heroic, or coquettish — anyhow, a damsel on the jacket of every novel"
- In this case the jacket proclaimed "YES, this is a 'BLURB'!" and the picture was of a (fictitious) young woman "Miss Belinda Blurb" shown calling out, described as "in the act of blurbing." The name and term stuck for any publisher's contents on a book's back cover, even after the picture was dropped and only the complimentary text remained.
- Gerrymander (v) - to improve prospects for re-election by tampering with electoral boundaries or populations. Named after one such redrawing by Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry in 1812, resulting in one particularly convoluted constituency that resembled a salamander. It was then referred to as the "Gerrymander" by the Boston Centinel.
- During prohibition, a magazine held a contest to create a word for a person who illegally drank alcohol. Mr Henry Irving Dale and Miss Kate L. Butler both send in the winning entry, scofflaw, and thus shared the $200 prize. This word is still used today for anyone who ignores a minor law.
- Alex, the Grey Parrot that was the research subject of Irene Pepperburg, had difficulty learning how to pronounce "apple", and created "banerry". A linguist colleague of hers suspected it was a portmanteau of "banana" and "cherry", reasoning that the apple might taste a bit like a banana to the bird, and looked like a giant cherry.
- Alex also used corknut for almond, which was later used by Margaret Atwood in Oryx and Crake.
- The Washington Post often holds a contest to create a new word by adding or removing a letter from an existing one. One of the winners: "Sarchasm" - the gap between someone being sarcastic and the listener or reader who doesn't get it.
- It stands to reason that every word had to be made up by somebody. Thus all words were originally Neologisms.
- Know what "dord" means? Density is represented in science by D, or alternatively by d. This was submitted to Webster's Dictionary as, "D or d: a term used in science to mean density." Of course, someone misread it, and for decades "dord" was in the dictionary.
- Santorum. (n) 1) The frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex. 2) Former Republican Senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum.