Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lilli who? Lilliputian

Illustration from a French version of GT
 Playing on my iPod ~  Rolling in the Deep --  Adele
Open on My Nook ~  Against the Wind -- Kat Martin

 Today's A-Z Challenge letter: L

Lilliputian ~  trival or very small thing or person. Word Origin: 1726. An inhabitant of Lilliput, a fictional island in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.

Lilliputian. Ha! A made-up word. How uber cool is that?

I like to make-up words. Sometimes a made-up word is what is needed to precisely describe something squirreling in my head. My friends understand this and when one of those made-up words flies out of my mouth they roll with it.

One of my English professors wasn't too happy with this little quirk when it reared in my writing. He was only too happy to have a discussion with me on the matter that if a word wasn't in the dictionary it had no place in one's writing. I responded that if new words weren't constantly being invented then language would stagnate and die. Think of the ancient languages that are now dead. What doesn't float down the river of evolution goes the way of the dinosaurs. I'm not a Flintstones kind of girl. I'm Jetsons all the way.

In dissecting my writing assignment that day, the professor admitted that the made-up words I used were understandable and presented in a manner that allowed the reader a clear picture of what was in my mind's eye. After pushing forward the heavy-weights in my corner, such as Swift, into the dialogue, the professor and I agreed on a distinction. Made-up words were permissible in creative writing class but not expository writing. I counted it as a victory and encouragement.

If everyone stuck to the rule of no made-up words, we wouldn't have added laptop, netbook, wi-fi, blog, computer, internet, web,  and iPod to our vocabulary. Yikes!

Kudos to those who break the rules and give us imaginative words that become a part of our modern language. 

Have you read something that contained a made-up word that stuck with you? Do you make up words when you're writing? What are they?

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kar_took said...

I'm the opposite - my critical writing is full of made-up words to describe literary concepts (narrativization is my spell checker's bug bear at the moment). Academics and critics do it all the time, but unless its a noun for aomething that doesn't exist and therefore doesn't have a name, then I don't do it in my writing.

You are so right though, language which doesn't change and grow by adding new words and phrases looses the ability to describe the world, and what's the point in that?

Cally Jackson said...

Ooh, great post. I once wrote 'My heart panged' and got told off by an editor big time. Apparently you can have heart pangs but your heart cannot 'pang'. I beg to differ - I've been broken up with before. I know what a panging heart feels like! Three cheers for creative licence! :-)

J.L. Campbell said...

I'm all for making up words, except that you get taken to task for it. I say if you like them enough then keep it. You have a lot more leeway after, being published especially if your book is a hit.

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