Inventing new words, or neologisms, isn’t new. Words have to come from somewhere, right? And we Americans have enjoyed a facile famousity for it lo these many years, often to the chagrin of our dentally deficient cousins across the Atlantic. A fellow named John Russell Bartlett, not to be confused with John Bartlett of familiar quotations fame, was chronicling the words we Americans mint as early as the mid 19th century. His list kind of sucked: “Absquatulate: to run away, to abscond. Used only in familiar language.”
English in general has a blood lust for word invention, but America, being the proverbial melting pot, does it best and most of all. We beg, borrow and steal. French people who don’t hate America say “hamburger.”
The International Dictionary of Neologisms lists some 2,600 invented words. A “beaufect,” according to IDN, is “a minute flaw which adds charm to great physical beauty.” Think Cindy Crawford’s mole, Joaquin Phoenix’s cleft lip, Heather Mills’ missing leg.
Neologism-ism reaches a hilarious apex each year with The Washington Post Mensa Invitational. The contest asks participants to “take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.” As the name indicates, the contest is done in coordination with Mensa International, an exclusive club for really, really smart people who really, really want you to know how really, really smart they are. Mensa stands for “My esoteric nowledge says all.” I’m not a member, OK?
Somehow cashtration — the act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time — came in at number one. But others were better in my fictionary. Foreploy: any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid; dopeler effect: the tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly (read this column a few times; you’ll get the meaning); and, my personal favorite, reintarnation: coming back to life as a hillbilly.
But that was them. This is us. Herewith, a call for entries. Same concept as the Post’s, but with a focus on anything Acadiana, Cajun, Creole, or generally south of Rapides Parish and west of the basin. Send your creologisms to me at [email protected]. No deadline at this point; we’ll keep the contest open until we get a dozen or so gems. Entries will be judged by committee. Winners (first, second and third shall we say?) will get a prize yet to be determined. Maybe “prize” is too strong a word. Please include name and contact information with your entry.
We’re relaxing the rules a bit: change two letters or change a letter and add a letter if you like; not because we think Independent readers are yahoos but because the managing editor couldn’t pull one off without modified rules. Here’s mine: Boudouin (boo-doo-win) n. One who migrates in search of the most pleasing combination of rice, pork and seasoning encased in a condom-like tube.
Put your thinking caps on and send in those entries. No absquatulating!