The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

It’s Not My Fault If You’re Not Up To Speed

Posted by BigWords on August 6, 2009

I’m going to throw around a few thoughts which have been cropping up again and again in the last few weeks. It’s not a complaint about the lack of deciphering abilities people are capable of, whatever it may seem like…

There’s a good chance you will have come across words, phrases or concepts which are tough to place into context, and I usually form an unnatural attraction to these types of English usages. There will be examples in a moment, though I want to start off with the reasons I twist the language to suit my needs, because it might seem that I’m being deliberately obscure. I’m not. I love new words, and I really love new usages of old words.

“Magpie” is something I use a lot. To magpie is, rather than simply stealing, to use a core conceit or concept from an established work, or to use a moment from my own experiences. I don’t like “steal” because it’s uncomfortably close to “plagiarize”, and that is verbotten, so I use magpie instead. A similar thought usage for the “take the temperature”, which really should be accepted by most people, is a description of popular opinion.

I gotta take the temperature on prologues for my WIP

This has been used by enough people that I really needn’t be forced to explain it, but some people give me ‘the look’ when I use the phrase. Also, as can be seen above, I throw around a few words from other languages, and if you need those explained, well… lets just say that there are books out there that you really shouldn’t try reading. Especially Anthony Burgess’ Clockwork Orange. I used “moloko” in place of “milk” for about a year after reading Orange, so you have been warned.

A current favorite is The Weave. You’re staring at that sentence, trying to think of what it could mean, but you’re looking at it right now. The weave ties the world together, streaming the good and the bad, tying us all together. It really isn’t fair to the current incarnation of the internet to lump it in with the pre-www.webname.com/co. stuff, so we have to view it as separate with a new term for it’s abilities. Weave seems as good a word as any.

Pop culture plays into my vocabulary as much as literature or trad English usage. “Groovy” was imprinted on my brain the first time I saw Evil Dead II, and I have been known to use nyuk-nyuk-nyuk after watching The Three Stooges. There is a lot of words now considered to be part of the English language, but the proliferation of words only causes problems when someone (normally this would be me) uses a word which has different meanings.

I’m not trying to confuse anyone deliberately, and I have gone out of my way to avoid using certain phrases here.

“Static” is another word which I use liberally, as in: “Quit giving me static.” I know, I know… So not proper usage of the word, and bordering on annoying.

Just think yourselves lucky that I haven’t written a post in slang, or Polari, or 1337… No, I don’t use Leet normally, but if you want to confuse people it is better than Caesar cypher. The old ‘add egg to every word’ also works well to create new words.

…and I got to thinking of fictional languages when I was pondering my own vocabulary. Klingon and Elvish (from Tolkien) are the two best known fictional languages, and yet they exist in isolation, unlike our own languages. You can trace Italian and Spanish back to Latin (and there is a substantial amount of overlap in words) though it is impossible to see the origins of fictional languages. I’m surprised no-one has seen this.

Does my use of certain words constitute a shift in English? No. There would need to be a large-scale use of the words before they are considered English, and I doubt that the ways I like to bend the rules of word-form will come easily to others. Is it still acceptable to use fictional words, or words out of context? Yes, absolutely. You’ll find that the hold-outs are going to be people from schools and colleges who despise any butchery of the language; but remember… Shakespeare changed English with his work.

As long as I keep writing, I’m not going to help myself but to use fragments. And start with ‘and’. Or throw in some unusual voxy.

Keep paying attention, because you never know when I might coin a brand new word.

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3 Responses to “It’s Not My Fault If You’re Not Up To Speed”

  1. sputnitsa said

    love this post.

    I have to say, I enjoy words, and enjoy hearing a new sentence. That is, one said in a way I’d never heard before.

    We’ve got so many words in English, why not dust some of them off, free them from the shackles of expectation, and let them pirouette? 🙂

    Uh, did I just use a French one by accident? Oops.

  2. bigwords88 said

    There’s (allegedly) over a million words in the English language, though if you took all the words used in novels over the space of any five year period we would only have a couple of hundred thousand words. People like things they know, are frightened by the exotic, and don’t understand much of the history of words.

    I might start ranting at the culture of dumbing down…

  3. sputnitsa said

    🙂 I sat next to two girls on the subway today. They were talking about a scene in a book. It felt so good, especially since the group of girls in front of me were fixing their make up and peering into one another’s iPods.

    I almost wanted to twitter them. I mean tweet. Whatever I mean. 🙂

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