In our ever-changing world, we are constantly finding ourselves at a loss of words. For example, how would you describe the ever-so-common phenomenon of students going to their classes, and then leaving during break?
Edwin Battistella, a Southern Oregon University professor in the English and Writing Program, has a word for that: “wentness.”
Since Jan. 1, Battistella has resolved to bring words into the English language that the dictionary has neglected. He is now five months into his plan of developing a new word every day for the rest of the year, with three goals in mind: to interest and involve students in the formation of words, to see what words will stick, and most importantly, to have fun.
So far Battistella has been fairly successful with his project, and even hopes that some of the “non-words,” as he refers to them, might make it into the dictionary.
The “words” he has composed are not gibberish, but are instead derived from real roots and other aspects of the English language and spliced together.
For example, “fauxobey” means pretending to obey a rule or law one disagrees with, while actually ignoring or defying it.
Battistella wakes up each morning contemplating his “non-word” for the day, finding inspiration in anything from his mood to events on the news.
“Whatever pops into my head that day that seems like a good word,” said Battistella, explaining he tries to find rhythm as well as vary word types.
The final cut for Batistella’s creations, however, is whether or not the word is already in the dictionary.
“I get surprised sometimes,” he said. “I’ve learned 50 or so words I didn’t know [before the experiment].”
Despite the emphasis on being fun, the experiment is also educational, inspiring his students to look into the creation of words as well as the impact they have in society, such as marketing campaigns.
According to Battistella, his “non-words” have received a lot of community support, with community members making suggestions for new words.
Others, however, view his experiment as a threat to the established dictionary.
“Every now and then someone will come up and tell me I’m ruining the English language,” he said.
Nevertheless, he plans to continue his creative endeavors till the end of the year.
“Or until I go crazy,” he added.
Battistella can be found at LiteraryAshland.org, on Twitter, or linked from the SOU homepage, where he starts every morning off with a new catchy “non-word” to brighten the day.
See Battistella’s new word of the day at: http://twitter.com/#!/@LiteraryAshland