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Friday, July 1, 2011

At A Loss For Words

Is there a word for staring blankly at the blinking cursor on a screen? Well, there should be. Many writers I’m sure are familiar with this activity. I suggest slarble—staring blankly at a blinking cursor on a computer screen, unable to write down coherent thoughts. 

(“Hey, busy tonight?” “Not really. Just slarbling.”)

Speaking of words yet to be invented, I was surprised to find out that there is a real word for having hairy buttocks. According to Mrs.Byrne’s Dictionary, having hirsute ass is actually called dasypygal, and that gynotikolobomassophile is somebody who likes to nibble on women’s earlobes. Qualtagh is the first person seen after leaving a house. Now that is a strange word to invent.  Stranger still is thwertnick—entertaining a sheriff for three nights. I can’t think of any circumstance why anybody would entertain a sheriff for three nights. And how would anybody entertain a sheriff? Do you dance and sing or present a musical for him?
Seriously, who thought up that word? Somebody sure jargogled (to befuddle or mess up).
Neil Gaiman, in his book “Don’t Panic…,” writes that Douglas Adams (author of the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) once said that there are "huge wodges of human experiences" that are not recognized by dictionaries. I agree.
 For example, when you stand in a kitchen wondering why the hell did you go there in the first place? It’s called “woking,” according to Mr. Adams. Also, that vaguely uncomfortable feeling you get from sitting on a seat that has just been warmed by somebody else’s bottom? That is “shoeburyness,” said the creator of Marvin the Paranoid Android.
What about those furtive glances you shoot around you to check if somebody is within hearing distance from you when you’re walking on the street and you suddenly feel flatulent? Could somebody suggest a word for those?
Which reminds me of an article I read in The Straight Dope. A reader wrote to Cecil Adams (purportedly the world’s smartest human) asking what word is used to refer to the “peculiar encounter with an oncoming stroller characterized by dance-like and indecisive movements from side to side, as each participant helplessly fences with the other in an effort to avoid a head-on collision.”  Apparently, that sidewalk two-step is called shuggleftulation. But feel free to think up a better substitute; shuggleftulation is a cumbersome and unwieldy word, not to mention ridiculous.
Other useful word I read in that article is elecelleration—the mistaken belief that the more you press an elevator button, the faster it will arrive. Many of us are guilty of elecelleration.
Cecil Adams’ source for these words is a book by Rich Hall called Sniglets, which means “any word that doesn't appear in the dictionary, but should.”
I imagine there are a myriad of words out there waiting to be invented
After all, language evolves. Right?

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