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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Made up words

   
Author Topic: Made up words
Brendan
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Has anyone else here made up a word for a story?

I have a concept/device in a story that has no counterpart in real life (although there are seed forms of them, with much too long names). My solution for naming this was to find something in real life that could be a metaphore, and then mangle that word.

Has anyone else faced that sort of problem? How have you handled naming it?


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Robert Nowall
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I've tried my luck...but I sometimes find that somebody somewhere else has used it. Now I usually take some existing word and distort its spelling and meaning...it's hard to invest a made-up word with significance.

I cite Cordwainer Smith's "Scanners Live in Vain" as a prime source to do it right: his use of cranch, and associated modifications like cranching and cranching wire, managed to be significant, emotionally charged, and important to the story.


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I am destiny
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Yeah, I make up names of planets and things all of the time...
IE on the planet ULNAR they say GEHAGHT for thank you. I feel I'm pretty good at it if you want help.

~D


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meg.stout
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There is software that generates random words - I think there are websites and I know there are programs you can buy that do it - I googled "random word generator."

Be careful to check your words. My mom once made up a word to use for 'swearing' in place of crap and crud, only to find out later it was a really, really foul word (won't share it here because I'm sure it would get edited by 'she who sees all').

Another time a group of friends was playing that game where you find an obscure word in the dictionary and the other teams has to pick the 'right' definition. One guy on our team wanted to use the word 'speculum.' Maybe guys don't know that word, but every woman who has reached puberty and goes to the doctor knows at least one definition of that word...


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annepin
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Another book that uses a lot of made up words, effectively, is A Clockwork Orange.

Anyway, I usually steal words from other languages--Latin is a big one for me. I sometimes make up names for flora and fauna, with varied success- it can come off as somewhat contrived. I think combining words to indicate concepts might be a way to go, or to rework root words, i.e. how OSC came up with "xenocide". Even if no one encountered that word before he came up with it, it's pretty clear what it means since most people know what xeno is and cide is.


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Christine
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The precise time to make up a word is when there is no counterpart in the English language. Try to find a term for it first, of course, but if it's not there...have fun! Science fiction has made up many terms that have later been adapted, such as robot.


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meg.stout
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Although one of my favorite words is crogglement.

I correspond with a few folks, and my vocabulary is larger than is polite, but rather than consent to constant shrinkage of the english language, I'll just look up any words I think are too unusual and include the dictionary.com listing at the end of the e-mail.

But crogglement wasn't there.

Luckily, google works. So I now know that crogglement is "A word invented by [science fiction author] Dean Grennell to denote extreme astonishment."

I really like crogglement. So I'm glad Dean Grennell didn't allow himself to settle for astonishment. Then again, I imagine this was a word he had been using amongst friends and family and not a word he invented just for a story.

[This message has been edited by meg.stout (edited September 01, 2007).]


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HuntGod
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There is a site that does urban slang and such...

http://www.urbandictionary.com/

It also has contemporary slang and verbage like "grok" and such.

Worth taking a look at.


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debhoag
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Meg, I croggle at your erudiction!
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Pyre Dynasty
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Demmuggledited 1) Adj. So twisted that it's facing forward. (2) Verb. The act of demmuggledation. (3) Verb. To demmuggledite. (4) noun. Demmuggledite: one who demmuggledites. (5) Adv. Demmugleditedly. (IE This dictionary is so demmuggledited.)

WEB-sters Dictionary.


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Robert Nowall
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"Pyre Dynasty"'s post reminded me of another story of the dangers of making up your own words. I'm sure nearly all of you have seen J. K. Rowling's use of "muggles" in the Harry Potter series for, I think, those who are, er, non-magical. (I say "I think" 'cause I still haven't gotten around to reading past Book One. It comes up in press reports here and there.)

What some of you may also know is that "muggles" is an old slang term for marijuana, from the twenties through maybe the fifties, but more common in the earlier part of that stretch of time, I'd say. Now, I don't know if Rowling actually knew this before she used this word in her book---but it's one of those things that tends to stop things dead in the water for me while I'm zipping along through a book.


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Josh Anthony
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Generally for my made-up words I simply use compound words that explain what the word basically is (i.e. "ultrasteel"). Usually though I simply take real words and use them in strange and unusual ways (i.e. "Madison", the last name of President #4, is an insult in one of my stories).

It doesn't always need to be a brand-new word. If it is one, though, I would beg that you MAKE IT PRONOUNCEABLE! (Sorry for the caps, but if I could count the number of shmerps I've encountered in my reading...)


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debhoag
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In defense of words that are not made up, I got scolded recently for making up a place name because it had an apostrophe in it - and it was the place's actual name.
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Robert Nowall
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quote:
MAKE IT PRONOUNCEABLE!

True. There's the eye-splitting multiconsonantal words that look like the writer's cat walked across the keyboard. And then there are those ones that stop you 'cause you can't figure out, say, whether the "c" is hard or soft. (Took me some time to realize how Tolkien's "c" names like "Celeborn" were pronounced, and I still stumble over it.)


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WouldBe
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On Evil Editor's site, a term was coined (mine ) for made-up alien words: xenoblarney.

[This message has been edited by WouldBe (edited September 03, 2007).]


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Rick Norwood
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Some writers are very good at making up words: Larry Niven, Tolkien, LeGuin. Others aren't.

A common trick, one I often use, is to start with a real word and modify it slightly. I'm told that H. G. Wells marvelous word "Cavorite" was invented by modifying "gravity" -- and then working backwards to get the name, Cavor.


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Elan
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I suggest that anyone making up words be sure to google them first before integrating them into their WIP. After long deliberation, I finally decided to name my fantasy world a name I made up which had a nice ring to it. Sadly, after months of writing, I randomly decided to google it and discovered the name was also a character in Japanese anime, a genre I have no familiarity with.

I've taken to googling any further made-up names prior to using them, just to check.

[This message has been edited by Elan (edited September 03, 2007).]


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debhoag
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i love xenoblarney!
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InarticulateBabbler
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You love xenobarney?
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franc li
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You know, that just explains so much.

I came up with a villain name of "Tuloth" one time, and googled it, and found it is a regular fantasy trope. I messed with it a little and came up with a word that actually had a good Arabic foundation having to do with the guy's character flaw.

Knowing another language helps, unless that language is Portuguese, in which case all your spellings will confuse the heck out of everyone who isn't Portuguese. It's almost as bad as English.


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debhoag
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No, xenobarney is a large purple dinosaur from the planet Xenofeltia. I love xenoblarney, which is a different critter all together. And not purple, either
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hoptoad
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quincunxoid

:.:


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hoptoad
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tetraktysian

.
..
...
....


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HuntGod
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There are also plenty of real words that sound made up...

Discombobulate
Confabulate
Defenestrate - I love that this word even exists...talk about uber specific

Then again I had a coworker ask me today what "remorse" meant...I looked back at them kind of stunned, thinking they were joking. At that point they said, "You don't know either?"

So maybe we have too many words for the general public :-)


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darklight
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I had a similar experience when someone once asked what vitriolic meant. But I'm suprised that someone didn't know remorse.

Anyhow, I have made up words, but I won't meantion them because I haven't googled them, so they might actually exist.


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Robert Nowall
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It's always delightful to find a word for something specific.

It's less than thrilling when your spell checker tells you a perfectly good word is wrong. Save on rare occasions, I don't put in anything new---but then I also have to put up with being told that something as simple as "spaceport" is wrong.

(Also it continually tells me my own name is wrong. Who am I going to believe, me or the spell check program?)


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SeraphM
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Having just recently read a fantasy novel that seemed to have a made up word on almost every page (and sometimes two or more per page) I beg you, for the love of all that is holy, don't over do it.

One or two words per story, in my opinion, is more than enough for most books, unless you are insanely good at it.

Course that's just my opinion, for all I know, everyone else that read the book I just read thought all the invented language was spiffalicious.


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hoptoad
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borborygmus

cool word meaning the sound made by a gathering of amateur writers avoiding the work required to write a story.

edit: formatting

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited September 04, 2007).]


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hoptoad
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PS: I hate it when someone invents a word for something because they either didn't know, or couldn't be bothered finding out, that there was already a perfectly good word for it.

If it is an obscure -- but real -- word, I don't mind it being explained to me in the text, ie: "Bob looked out across the scarp; a ragged line of cliffs marking the fractured edge of the vast plateau."

Sometimes a writer thinks it is clever to disguise an otherwise mundane object by giving it a new or incomprehensible name. It is not clever. When they eventually reveal that the 'magic' thing was actually a car battery or something equally unmysterious, they have usually broken a bunch of promises to their readers leaving them unsatisfied and often cranky.

On the subject of remorse I understand the word but cannot identify with the concept.

Edit:

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited September 04, 2007).]


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sakubun
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There are tons of online dictionaries, but the one I use that searches most of them anyway is Google.

Just type, with no spaces, define:flippant or whatever word you want defined. It gives examples too.

Another device I use is the transducer bio configurator.....

Sorry, seriously though:

http://wordsmith.org/anagram/index.html

It makes anagrams from whatever you type in. You can set specific parameters.


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Tricia V
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Borborygmus makes me think of Trichbezoars. Though thanks to Harry Potter, too many people know what a bezoar is.
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hoptoad
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trichobezoars are just a little bit gross.
thanks for getting the borborygmus thing

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JeanneT
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quote:
Some writers are very good at making up words: Larry Niven, Tolkien...

It's rather import in my opinion to remember that Tolkien was good at making up entire languages, not just words. If you want to do language creation -- not an unusual activity for both fantasy and science fiction writers, I happen to like Holly Lisle's book on the subject which she sells (along with several other of her books aimed at authors) on her website.

I prefer her method to using a random word generator myself.


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