By Linda Nagata
(cross-posted from Hahví.net)

Over on twitter, Alma Alexander asks “What are the words that you’d banish from the Oxford English Dictionary?” The links lead on to an article on words that people would like to see dropped from English.

Personally though, I want more words, not less.

Every now and then when I’m writing I come to a point where I need a particular word with a very specific meaning and a certain social or emotional context. I know exactly the definition of that word. The only problem is, that word, so far as I know, doesn’t exist. So, of course, I have to write my way around it.

I think I’ll start keeping a list of those unfulfilled definitions. It will be like Jeopardy for dictionaries. I provide the definition, the dictionary produces for me a shiny new word, known to everyone, that perfectly communicates the nuance I’m striving for.

If only.

Linda Nagata is the Locus and Nebula award winning author of The Bohr Maker, Vast, and Memory, all available at Book View Cafe. Her latest book The Dread Hammer, is a fast-paced mythic fantasy of love, war, murder, marriage, and fate.




More! — 5 Comments

  1. Oh, I like this idea. I’d love to see a list of definitions looking for words. Though it’s hard to invent a word that sounds right. In my work, I frequently need gender-neutral pronouns for situations where the gender of the character is unknown or doesn’t fit in the limited categories. Others have invented some gender-neutral pronouns, but they don’t feel right to me.

  2. Nancy, I’m really wishing for real words suddenly popping into existence, with no whiff of “invention” about them–like discovering the right term in the thesaurus–and everybody already knows what the word means. You know, some sort of magical process.

    Brenda, it’s all so much in the moment. The examples of definitions of wished-for words have faded with my memory.

  3. My language, Estonian, has a gender-neutral pronoun and nothing much else.

    Imagine translating a novel full of ‘he said’, ‘she said’, ‘he said’, ‘she said’ . . . into a language with no he and she. Bang head on keyboard to continue!