05 August 2010

Introducing: The Burrowictionary!

So okay, obviously "Burrowictionary" is a made-up word, but that's perfect for Delusional Thursday because it's going to be all about made-up words today! Firefox will be full of fireworks as I type it all out - or at least lots and lots of little wiggly red lines, but I'm okay with it if you are.

Coining words and phrases has a long and illustrious history, especially in English (which pretty much takes all comers, linguistically speaking, especially since we shed all that pesky word-gender and adjective agreement and cases and stuff {errrm... well, mostly anyway}). Shakespeare is credited with more individual creations than anyone else, but his were mainly meant to make pretty good sense. When we get to fellows like Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (a.k.a. Lewis Carroll), though - well, maybe I should copy out a bit of Jabberwocky again, eh?

And as in uffish thought he stood
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood
And burbled as it came.

Both "chortled" and "galumphing" (and their associated forms) entered the language from this poem (I think "burbled" did too, actually), as well as a useful term for describing words like "floofy" and "ginormous" - to wit, they are portmanteau words (so says Humpty Dumpty), made by combining two others.

A particular form of word creation is the minced oath (which term I didn't know until I got really bored at work one day and idly Googled "prunk it up your cloffing pimhole"), whereby the writer creates something that usually sounds incredibly rude but avoids actual profanity, perhaps to get something past censors (Norman Mailer's infamous "fug you" comes to mind here), to invest a character with attitude without offending parents ("D'arvit!" is a good one, from Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series, or "Plevvit!" from Bruce Coville's "My Teacher is an Alien" books), or, as in the phrase I Googled, for comic effect (courtesy of those brilliant funnymen Fry & Laurie).

I once inflicted an essay on the topic on my poor fellow Burrowers which took a look at the content of such words and had a lot of guff about fricatives and plosives and postalveolar something-or-others, but I'll spare you most of that rubbish and sum up by saying that good, strong one- or two-syllable words that you can really shout seem to work well, and if they're alliterations or rhymes for the real thing, so much the better.

While I'm at it, a post on the subject of weird words would hardly be complete without a mention of Douglas Adams - the man who gave us the Pan-Galactic gargleblaster, Oolon Colluphid, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Slartibartfast, and bad Vogon poetry ("Oh freddled gruntbuggly" is one of the most delicious phrases I know) was supremely good at creating organic-sounding words, whether proper names or random verbs or anything else he needed. He also left us The Meaning of Liff (which was followed by The Deeper Meaning of Liff), and these wonderful collections take lots of words just standing around with no real meanings (i.e. place names) and give them definitions which lack words of their own. Shoeburyness has always been one of my favourites - new definition, when you sit down in a seat that's still warm from someone else's bottom. A guy I once dated proudly said that his password had never been broken, as he used a non-dictionary term that was originally the name of the creature Arthur Dent keeps accidentally killing. "Oh, you mean Agrajag?" said I... and he had to change his password. Heh.

Anyway anyway anyway, once upon a time in the land of Harry Potter fandom, there were a whole bunch of rather odd but perfectly amiable people hanging around on message boards and whatnot. Sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident, someone created a word and someone else picked it up and ran with it and before we knew what was happening, it had become a recognized (if specialized) term that was suddenly all over the place. You will find these words under the "HPANA" category in the Burrowictionary.

Those of us you have come to know and love (we hope...) here (plus a few more) went off and formed the Burrow, and from this era come more words. Some of them look like skewed versions of normal words, and that's due to their genesis in the infamous "boken keboa" era (errrm, that's "broken keyboard", which should now be self-explanatory), some of them are portmanteaux (and what a funny-looking plural THAT is...), some of them are - you know, maybe I should just let you go read it yourself, huh? So up at the top of the page, if we've gotten our timing figured out (not always easy, what with all the different time zones we all live in...), there will now be a Fourth Tab! And it says "Burrowictionary" on it! And you can click it and find out what the hing a knonle is (and why they're annoying), ponder the degree of frustration evidenced by fwuztwatin, and learn why you should be prepared for nearly anything if someone starts a post by saying "FRUNK!" Have fun... and feel free to lend us your coinages if you so desire, because sometimes the current state of the language is just not sufficient to express everything...


Chary Johnson said...

This is fabulous! And I absolutely love the new tab!

*glomples and huggles*

Glomples- a higher variation of glomps.

Huggles- also a really squishy hug with snuggles in it. :D

*lights candle*- used when someone posts *dies* or *faints*

Tundiel said...

LOVE this! Yup, that's about all I can think of to say really.... I just love it. :)

Rayna M. Iyer said...

What about those descriptions we used to get around the HPANA censors, "an unmentionable part of the posterior" was one of my favourites.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Love it! I'm a huge fan of Jabberwocky and had no idea there was actually something called a minced oath (although I'm glad there is such a thing and it looks like they're much more interesting than ordinary ones.)

Hart Johnson said...

This is fabulous, Leanne! And thank you so much for pulling the Burrowictionary together! It's sublime!

ViolaNut said...

I've just realized I forgot to add Roald Dahl to the list. Bugger. :-P So okay, here we go: snozzcumber trogglehumper bogthumper Oompa Loompa! *snort* Thanks for the compiling help, gang, and hey, we can always add to it (as long as only one of us edits at a time!).

Elizabeth - I know, right? Long live the minced oath, in all its cucking glory. ;-)

Lynda Young said...

Love this. And I love the last sentiment too: because sometimes the current state of the language is just not sufficient to express everything...

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