Friday, January 07, 2011

Friday fun: Watch your language :)

Spoken American English is full of all sorts of interesting words and "non-words." Here are two of my favorites:

  • humongous--(hue-mahn-gus) presumably a mixture of "huge," monstrous," and "enormous."
  • ginormous--presumably a mixture of "gigantic" and "enormous."

Now my B.A. in French kicks in--it seems to me that every language has "substitute non-words" for things of which we can't remember the name. Here are a few:

  • English--thingie, thing-a-mabob, thing-a-majig, doohicky, what's-it, what-da-ya-call-it, what-cha-ma-call-it
  • French--bidule, machin, truc
  • Hebrew--ma-sheh-hu (?--this may be a real word). Any takers?
  • Spanish--sorry, never learned Spanish well enough. Any takers?

What are some of your own favorites?


Blogger Miami Al said...

I know ginormous is made up, but fun, but is humungous really not a word? I used that all the time my entire life... seems like a word to me. :)

Next you are going to tell me that redonkulous isn't a word, either? :)

Fri Jan 07, 10:52:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Redonkulous? I haven't heard that one yet. Thanks for contributing to the list. :)

Fri Jan 07, 12:21:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

For some unknown reason, this comment by TOTJ Steve appeared in my blogger e-mail, but not here, so let me copy and paste:

Too Old to Jewschool Steve has left a new comment on your post "Friday fun: Watch your language :)":

Both are "real" words, regardless of their etymology. They are commonly used and understood.

Neither is limited to "spoken American English". "Humongous" is left untouched by Word's spell check. "Ginormous" has been included in Merriam Webster's dictionary since 2007.

Just because a word is "made up" does not reduce its usefulness or its place in your vocabulary. Without "made up" words, we would not have "telephone", "xerography" or "semi-conductor", to name just a few. The technical name for such new compositions is "neologism".

Posted by Too Old to Jewschool Steve to ON THE FRINGE—AL TZITZIT at Fri Jan 07, 04:18:00 PM 2011

Sat Jan 08, 10:24:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

TOTJ Steve, I wasn't aware that these words show up in dictionaries, these days. And it's certainly true that these words are useful. I guess I would have thought that the word ""neologism" would have been reserved for more formal terms for things or ideas that didn't exist before, such as "semi-conductor," rather than for terms such as "humongous," for which "huge" already existed.

Then again, I tend to be somewhat conservative when it comes to adopting new words or new uses for old words. I admit that it took me several years to give up complaining about the use of "access" as a verb. Those of my younger readers who were born after computers became common household appliances may not be aware that the word "access" was once used as a noun exclusively--you could have, get, gain, give, grant (etc.) access to something or someone, but you couldn't just "access" something. But even an old "language conservative" like me has to "get with the program" sooner or later. :)

Sat Jan 08, 10:40:00 PM 2011  

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