How to add words to English

In former times adding new words to the language was an everyday affair; just look at the archetypal English wordsmith Wiliam Shakespeare.

So here’s the thing, this blog, website, entity, spuriform is in the main written in English. However, there are times when I feel that the vocabulary afforded to me through the OED diktat can’t convey the subtlety of meaning that I am attempting to communicate.

So can we just add to English? What is the negative if we do? What’s the benefit of doing so? So many questions. By the way, did you notice we have added to the lingua-popular in this post already?

Photography of an English Dictionary
Photograph by Flickr user – Tom Hynds – used under Creative Commons.

So you spotted our inclusion of “spuriform” or “lingua-popular”? Well, these inventions of ours were placed in your way as a bridge to understanding the point of this content. I’m willing to bet you instantly knew what “lingua-popular” was dropped in to convey. What about “spuriform”? Well, this may need some explanation; it’s a construction of a word stem, “form”, and a well-known sound mimicking the action of vomiting.

In former times adding new words to the language was an everyday affair; just look at the archetypal English wordsmith Wiliam Shakespeare. He has the accolade of the first attribution of many words including “dishearten”, “multitudinous”, and “bedazzled”. Charles Dickens was another major contributor to our tongue coining “flummox” and “lummy” amongst many others. I will leave you to determine their meanings.

In contemporary times, we have Amy Winehouse to thank for “Fuckery”. A particular favourite of mine as in the context of her song “Me and Mr Jones”, it completely conveys her thoughts, which is indeed the purpose of language. We can’t confirm with all certainty that Shakespeare, Dickens, and Winehouse were the inventors of these terms, but they are certainly amongst the first to write them down.

So how do you claim a word and thus achieve immortality as a wordsmith? One way would be to be the first referenced user of the word. Take “lovey”; according to the OED, its first utterance was by the actor, writer, and TV presenter Stephen Fry.

Unfortunately staking your claim on a new word these days may not be that simple, but one sure fire way would be to get your word into print. For me, I an going to try and claim the words I have added to the English language in the recursive use of this very blog post. So to rewrite René Descartes; I have written the word. Therefore, I claim the word. In this instance “spuriform” and “lingua-popular” are my stakes in the game of immortality.

Well perhaps not, you see it’s not that easy. The OED, in their infinite wisdom, have strict criteria for adding new words. The online portal to the journey of imprinted celebrity for a new word is the contributions page at the OED. Take a look, there’s a long form to fill in, and you need a lot of proof.

So what else is left to say? Well, let us define our new words. Defining new words is by definition a full-time job at the OED, but I will attempt the task here.

“spuriform”: To produce a gushing word flow, most likely in digital media, or by oratory means.

“lingua-popular”: The contemporary use of language to convey communications in a manner that the general populous of the time fully understands which may include words that have not yet been included in the OED.

I think you will agree that no one at the OED will be redundant on my account anytime soon. So dear reader, if you have come across a new addition or are feeling particularly inventive, why not make a submission. It could be your long lasting legacy. I wish you pompanarity!

Should you give money to beggars?

When giving money to beggars, you are entering into an interpersonal transaction with a stranger. But should you?

When giving money to beggars, you are entering into an interpersonal transaction with a stranger. As in all transactions, both parties receive something. For the donor, they receive the internal gratitude for their good deed and the thanks of the beggar in most cases. The beggar receives the money, but also more. Humanity. Both are just as valuable.

The old beggar by Louis Dewis
Louis Dewis, “The Old Beggar”, Bordeaux, France, 1916

What if you do not give money, can you still receive and give? The universal standard would be the gift of subsistence. Food, water, shelter, heat and entertainment. These are tangible assets transacted both visually and physically. Moreover, then there is the less quantifiable, the smile, the connection of spirit, the distraction from the norm. The moment as you acknowledge another human being. For that moment, that brief instance, you are giving a person companionship. You share in the situation the unfortunate recipient has found themselves in.

Of course, the above rhetoric is devoid of the negative. It is a salute to the humanity of giving. What it does not address is the cruelty of giving. The act of giving enabling the recipients suffering to continue by not dealing with the cause of their unfortunate situation. So back to the question dear reader. You have to weigh up the transient benefit against the lasting cruelty of your gift.

Is it that simple, some would say yes. Others would point to other factors. The usual go to factor is the weather. The person on the street feels the cold or extreme heat as much as you do. Moreover, a donation in kind will give them a much needed respite from the elemental forces; all be it temporary.

What about the individuals’ circumstances. Up to now you might have been reading this article thinking about the mass ranks of beggars. However, each one has their personal backstory.

The drug addict that begs for money to buy drugs, the homeless person that just wants money for food or shelter. The person at the train station who is scamming people for small denominations to make a phone call. The historical professional beggar as detailed in the literary sense, this perception lives on in the modern psyche. How about the religious beggar?

Different countries have different names and differing social attitudes to beggars. Monks effectively beg for food from the general populous in some countries such as Thailand and Cambodia. The social attitude towards this form of begging is one of a harmonious relationship where giving to the extension of the spiritual deity or moral code, the monk, items such as food brings a sense of duty and spiritual reward.

Is beggar the right terminology, does this negative connotation truly apply to all those seeking donations? We use the term chugger for that person in the street being paid to solicit funds for charities. Are these now increasingly corporately managed entities beggars?

Can the charitable act of donating be compared to giving to a beggar? Is the difference, that a charity is an organisation asking for funds to deliver services, and a beggar an individual asking for money to survive, or profit?

Should you give money to beggars? The answer undoubtedly depends on so many factors, that to booleanise it down to yes or no is pointless.

Is your smartphone making you dumb?

We have contracted out our intelligence so far, that in many ways we have become as dumb as our addiction to our internet pocket rocket.

We are all processing vast amounts of data from the moment we get up to the moment we go to sleep. Even in sleep, we are still processing data. Most of the time we are doing this subconsciously, we don’t think about it. We are information processing demi-gods honed to perfection after millions of years of Darwinian improvements.

A painting called "An Allegory of Folly"
“An Allegory of Folly” by Quentin Matsys

For the first time in human history, we are now on the brink of information overload as the ever connected internet deluges us in data from our PC, TV, tablet, and smartphones. This information flood has swamped us so quickly in the last decade that our genetic divergence can not evolve fast enough to upgrade your biological CPU.

To cope, we are all starting to rely on an old friend, the hypothalamus. The brain’s filtering mechanism acts as a gatekeeper to our long-term memory. Since it is now more than ever in over-drive, we are becoming reliant on other strategies to store and recall basic information. For a lot of us, this is the ever present app. Evernote to the rescue opened multiple times per day so that we might function. A To-Do List app keeping our daily tasks in check. Google calendar and reminder alerts scheduling our lives.

Like many people dear reader this writer has sub-contracted part of his intellect to the collective app hive mind. But it gets worse, I used to be good at times tables, now even basic maths is googled instead of calculated. Spelling, we all started degrading this skillset years ago with the now common word processor led spelling and grammar check. These days we get the proofreading, that important check on our expedient need to protect our dignity in type, as part of the interactive writing process. We used to do this manually many times and in an iterative pattern. Alas no more, those little red lines we can tap on to correct us as we have all but removed this skill from our humanity.

Remember the last time you made eye contact when you had a conversation with someone, I think I do, but I will have to double check on my timeline app. In place of the art of conversation and reading the emotive substance of an expression we are reduced to short word form grunting while looking for Schadenfreude on Facebook. Perhaps the French or Italians will rescue us from our dumbed down interpersonal communications by inventing an arm waving app.

Oh, and remember we discussed sleep at the being of this, well there’s an app for helping us do that now. We have contracted out our intelligence so far, that in many ways we have become as dumb as our addiction to our internet pocket rocket.

Who Deprecates English?

The first stage to OED darkness for the word is to be marked as deprecated; this is a sign that the word will soon disappear, and a synonym must be found from the nearest thesaurus before all meaning is lost!

We write, talk, text, and think in the language we use every day. For most people reading this post, that will be English. A communication tool that has a unique set of words which is forever growing, as anyone who has seen or read the yearly news story of new words included in the OED reminds us. OED by the way, for those of you who have not assimilated the abbreviation, is the Oxford English Dictionary.

photograph of an old document containing the first folio of the Old English poem Beowulf
The first folio of the heroic epic poem Beowulf in Old English.

Sometimes this symbolic construct that holds and constrains our thoughts gets modified. New words get added, and definitions get updated. Last year we had “phablet”, “bankability”, and “carnapping” among 500 or so other new additions. However, there is a more sinister side to the guardianship of our common tongue. The Deprecator! Who is this person that decides whether English words shall thrive in everyday language, or pass into historically incorrect spellchecked oblivion?

To answer this, we need to look at deprecation. So what is deprecation and why does it happen, surely the more words in our lexicon, the better toolset we have to define our thoughts and communicate them to others. Well, this is true of the mediums that are online, or stored in the collective consciousness. However when it comes to holding a dictionary in your hand, then there is by definition of human strength, logistics, and practicality a finite size to the amount of words that can fit in one volume. So to keep the OED a practical complement to correction and discovery a cull of the word forest is required now and then.

Paperback Oxford English Dictionary

The first stage to OED darkness for the word is to be marked as deprecated; this is a sign that the word will soon disappear, and a synonym must be found from the nearest thesaurus before all meaning is lost!

So back to the original question. Who Deprecates Engish? The answer dear reader is a sign of the times; a committee at the OED.