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Friday, October 1, 2010

Whazzup? Thoughts about Words and a Link

At first I resisted text-ese and slang, but I started thinking about Shakespeare and how he created so many words we use daily, and I changed my mind. I think some of the new words floating about--LOL, Whazzup?, whodunit, chillaxing--are pretty cool.

How inventive was Shakespeare? One site lists 1,700 words that Shakespeare first used in his works. These include:

* accommodation
* amazement
* courtship
* countless
* frugal
* fitful
* lonely
* majestic
* suspicious

He also coined many phrases that we use today, including:

* dog will have its day
* eat out of house and home
* all that gilters
* break the ice
* kill with kindness
* it's Greek to me

The English language grows every year. One reason is technology. We add new words to accommodate (thanks, Will!) new ideas. I was working with a computer tech the other day, a man young enough to be my son, and we discussed how computers of old took up entire floors. How they had to be shut down to cool off. How all the programming was on punch cards. Think of all the changes! It's now commonplace to talk about:

* Mac
* PC
* Microsoft
* Windows (with a capital "W")
* hard drive
* laptop
* Internet
* thumbdrive

And of course, words that once had meanings have changed, so that when we talk about "wireless" we're not discussing a radio.

Another way that words are added is by adopting foreign words, such as jihad, shirah and anime. Since the world is a smaller place (theoretically), we have more contact with other cultures, so we're adopting more words than ever.

Then, we have the zeitgeist words, the words that come out of our culture. These wouldn't make sense to someone who lived in another time, but they are au courant and useful now.

* "tea party"
* mortgage backed securities
* Madoff
* September 11

And words from the world of science, commerce and medicine, such as:

* Viagra
* supernova
* blood diamonds
* botox

It's interesting how the newest words seem to come with the most baggage. That makes sense when you realize that words spring from political situations or cultural icons/changes.

Some words are only regional. Yesterday I was working on Ink, Red, Dead, which is the tentative title for Book #5 in the Kiki Lowenstein series. I described one of the new characters as having grown up in the "boot heel." Now, if you are from St. Louis, you would understand that this is the southwestern corner of the state of Missouri, and that anyone coming from the "boot heel" is probaby considered a hillbilly by the swanky folks in Ladue.

It's weird how a word can be so loaded. Kiki would never think twice about someone coming from the boot heel, but other people in the book definitely look down upon this woman's background.

Another word I'm using is "scrubby Dutch." Okay, really that's two words. It describes the houseproud German immigrants to St. Louis. "Dutch" is a mispronunciation of "deustch." At first I felt pretty squeamish about this phrase, because I didn't want to be offensive. But a lovely group of my fans met me at a Barnes and Noble in Fenton. They actually asked me to create a "scrubby Dutch" character.

So I did.

Which leads us to another word: EASY.

Yeah, that's what I am. I'm sort of a pushover where my fans are involved.


Here's a link to a new review of Photo, Snap, Shot. I was delighted that P.J. liked the book, because she's a real expert on mysteries. I was hoping I could grow enough as an author to please her!


Patty said...

Great post. Love the list of words from Shakespeare. Have you signed up for the Urban Dictionary? One new word a day all coming from new technologies, texting, etc. Fun stuff.

Can't wait for the new Kiki book, I really enjoy spending time with Kiki and her friends and family.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Thanks, Patty. I'm having fun writing about Kiki and Co.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Oh, and no, but I shouls sign up for that. I love new words.