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The women who created a new language

http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20200507-the-women-who-created-a-new-language

bbc.com

The women who created a new language
At times of crisis in the past, writers coined words to describe our lives. Kelly Grovier explores how words like ‘frustrating’, ‘spring-clean’ and ‘outsider’ came to be.

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Creating words

Creating words

In times past, when circumstances demanded new ways of expression, it was often female writers who invented new words.

The word 'frustrating' makes its first appearance in print in George Eliot's novel Middlemarch, when she describes "the hampering threadlike pressure of small social conditions, and their frustrating complexity."

Taking inspiration from George Eliot and Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and Dorothy Wordsworth, we can find some helpful principles for sculpting a vocabulary to describe the surreal realities in these tense and trying times.

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Get your ‘-ness’ on

The suffix '-ness' can transform a plain word into something stranger and affectingly abstract. For example, 'dark' is factual, whereas 'darkness' is more graphic and poetic.

Other words that already follow this form: the unvisitedness of our parents and grandparents. The unembracedness of our friends. The egglessness of our pantries.

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You are what you '-r'

To show the depths of your connection with a place or feeling, simply adding an 'r' or an 'er' to the end of a noun can show a new existential title.
Jane Austen christened a group of random gamblers around a casino table, all coming from the 'outside,' as 'outsiders.' In her novel Emma, she turned the word 'sympathy' into 'sympathizer,' the first recorded use of that word.

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Join the Hyphen Nation

Another way to give new life the word is to pull together words in new ways.

Charlotte Bronte was a genius of compelling compounds. We likely owe the origin of 'self-doubt' and 'Wild-West' to her, as well as 'spring-clean.'

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The Wisdom of '-isms'

The suffix '-ism' is the quickest way to transport a word into the realms of respectable doctrine, system, or movement.

The novelist George Eliot is credited with formulating the word 'meliorism' - the belief that the world's suffering is healable if we all work together to that end.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Weak Words Used Often

Every word you use while working expresses something about your personal brand, your confidence, state of mind, authority and knowledge. The verbs that we put in sentences are key to our ima...

'Think'

We use "I think: often while at work, but it's a dysfunctional addition to a start of a sentence, that while ok to use occasionally in trivial situations, is to be avoided in meetings or one-on-ones. 

Try replacing it with "I'm confident".

'Need'

When we use "I need" at the start of a sentence it sounds like pleading rather than empowered. It makes us sound needy.

Swap "I need" with "Please" to sound polite and confident.

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Changing Habits Of Punctuation

Changing Habits Of Punctuation

The digital age combined with short attention spans and time constraints has led to the demise of various punctuation skills like the omission of apostrophes, deliberate spelling mistakes a...

The Blank Space: Early History Of Punctuation

  • Early stone inscriptions did not even have the punctuation we all take for granted: The blank space.
  • Ancient Greece and Rome had the written word for keeping records of political speeches and texts, which were carefully used by the orator for maximum rhetorical effect and verbal impact.
  • In 200 BCE, the Alexandrian Aristophanes worked on easing pronunciation of Greek for foreigners by using small circles to denote pauses, emphasising the rhythm of the sentence.
  • The 7th-century encyclopaedist Isidore Of Seville later took up the task of inserting grammar in the same text, inventing the period, the colon and the comma.

Punctuation In Religious Texts

  • The language in the Quran had cantillation marks written above the line to signify the kind of pause required.
  • The 9th Century Torah manuscripts show vowel additions and cantillation marks that help in the recitation of the same.
  • Modern Arabic and Hebrew texts have similar punctuation marks as many western languages.

The breaks and sonic links were primarily used to aid singing, sense-making and enhancing the beauty of the verses.

Listen

The more you expose yourself to the new language, the sooner you will become familiar with its sounds and structures. Familiarity, in turn, will speed understanding.

Copy

Repeating the sounds (out loud or in your head) will give you a feel for the language. Memorize not just words, but sentences and even songs to get the rhythm and intonation of the language.

Read

Read words, sentences, children’s books, newspaper articles. Read as far and near as you can, whether out loud to an audience or quietly to yourself.

Seeing the language in print helps you understand word structures. It also anchors the new sounds, and helps them get imprinted in your mind.