Sunday, April 14, 2013


As you may remember from your high school English class (you kept all of your notes on A Midsummer Night's Dream, didn’t you?) Shakespeare invented around 1700 words in his plays and poems.

Frankly, I think I should be allowed the same freedom, and I get all snitty when copyeditors point out details like “Apexed isn’t a verb.” (And right now Microsoft is insisting that 'snitty' isn’t a word either.)
Shakespeare never had to deal with such constraints.
Here are some words you probably didn't know he invented: eyeballs, puking, obscene, and skim milk.
Cool, huh?
Here are some words I wish he would have invented:
Another word for 'drop'. Oh sure, there’s plunge and plummet, but you can’t use them interchangeably. You can’t have a character plunge her car keys on the floor.  No one has ever said, “Hey, plummet the act. I know you’re lying.”  Nor has anyone’s mouth ever plunged open.
Another word for 'door.'  We use them all the time. Character’s are constantly coming in them, stalking out them, walking toward them, and slamming them.  It’s hard not to overuse the word. And don’t tell me I could use portal—no one actually thinks of a door as a portal unless they are in spaceship or a submarine.
And  Shakespeare should have invented multiple words for 'turn'. In your novel, things will turn colors, turn up, or turn from one thing into another. Your characters will take turns, make right turns, turn over, turn back, turn their attention to things, see how something turns out, and turn things down. They will also frequently turn to each other. You can replace a few of those turns with spin, but that only works if your characters are angry or ballerinas. If any word deserves a few synonyms, it’s turn.
On the other hand, there are also words I could happily axe from the English language to make my life easier.  Ask me how many times I mistyped the word rifle in Slayers: Friends and Traitors and spelled it riffle.  The problem is that riffle is a real word. Spell check doesn’t catch it.   It means: to form, flow over, or move in riffles.
How many times have we all written about our riffling habits?
Maybe someone should add a function to the computer so that anytime someone grabs a riffle, a little warning pops up that says, “You amuse our computer brain, silly mortal.  And by the way, you have lightening cuting through the sky while your character is waking to the car.
Then again, sometimes I could use a good lightening bolt.

 

3 comments:

Katterley Smith said...

Love it. So right, too. If Shakespeare got away with inventing 1700 words, he should have given us a few more with which to work.

Melinda said...

Really? Riffle is a word, but snitty isn't? Language is all about communication. If using apexed as a verb best communicates your meaning, then I think your editors are being overly critical!

Janette Rallison said...

Katterley, If only there was a way we could have given Shakespeare requests. (That's something else I can do with a time machine, should anyone ever invent one.)

Melinda,
My thoughts exactly. The whole profession is too snitty.