Thursday, June 26, 2008

A couple of suggested neologisms

Onomatopoeia is a late Latin word, formed from the Greek 'onomatopoios' meaning 'coiner of names', (onomat-, name + poiein, to make). In English it is used to describe the group of words like 'buzz' and 'bang' that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to.

When my children didn't know everything I used to enjoy teaching them 'big words'. When this word's turn arrived the discussion quickly moved to which words were (and weren't) onomatopoeic. What about 'murmur'? Or 'rustle'?

And then there are words that definitely aren't onomatopoeic, but somehow 'sound right', like 'hug' and 'squeeze'.

And there is also a (tiny) group of words that don't sound right at all. Like the word 'pulchritudinous', which means 'beautiful', but sounds like it should mean 'butt ugly'. (Proud Dad Moment: my eldest daughter once submitted 'regurgitudinous' to her English teacher as part of a neologism assignment. It means 'to be beautifully brought up'.)

I created a couple of new words for these categories, 'appronym' and 'contranym'. However, a quick Google showed that they were already taken ('appronym' was originally a generic term for surnames describing the profession of an individual, and has now come to mean an acronym that is composed of words that are appropriate to the meaning of the acronym itself, and 'contranym' is a word that can mean the opposite of itself, such as 'clip' or 'cleave').

So, here are my suggestions. For words that sound appropriate, 'paramatopoeic', and for words that don't, 'anamatopoeic'.


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