Essay: Rapturous Word Smithery

If I use the word rapture, what do you think?

Is it a feeling of intense pleasure or joy, or something religious? I recently used it, but reconsidered because of the second coming link. That’s not where I wanted my reader’s mind to go.

I’m not paranoid about selecting words, but many good words have been hijacked into meaning other things. I just saw click bait titled, “100 common slang phrases no longer used.” It included terms such as passion pit, talk to the hand, booyah, pad, or cat. Things change with words, phrases, and language in general. But I’m no linguist.

Admittedly, all words are subject to being absorbed into contemporary slang. Even lexicographers surrender to words morphing from misnomer to intentional slang to first or second-level meanings in dictionaries.

For example, gay as an adjective is often now defined first as homosexual (especially a man). As a noun, it means homosexual. Queer is another one that has waffled from meaning something odd, then to disparaging slang (homosexual), then back to acceptable, as in LGBTQ. I confess my confusion.

I try to keep up. I can say that’s cool and not be referring to a temperature, but I may be. Same with cold (as in cruel) in various uses. When my son started using the word bad to mean exceptionally good, I failed in making the sarcastic adjustment. Can we just stick with bad ass for that? Of course, that may also mean a tough or rough person.

I like it better when we make up new words rather than creating slang from old words that have established meanings. As it is, even when used correctly and in context, some words have so many meanings. For example, “the word set has 126 meanings as a verb, 58 as a noun, and 10 as a participial adjective,” and those do not include new jargonistic aberrations.

I just counted seven specialized dictionaries on my bookshelves. I like to read them because words fascinate me as much as spelling them frustrates me. Additionally, I use several on-line regular dictionaries, thesauruses, and encyclopedias (wiki’s) every day.

I got A’s in spelling in elementary school, “A” for atrocious. Now there’s a word nobody has screwed with (yet).

The nuns in my grade school taught me the word atrocious. I heard it often and haven’t forgotten. If only my spelling was better. It’s embarrassing to call myself a writer and spell so poorly.

However, Bill Bryson helps reduce my guilt feelings in his book “Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words” by telling of the physicist Richard Feynman’s intended retort to other professors who complained about their students’ failure to correctly spell particular words. It was, “Then there must be something wrong with the way you spell it.”

In the same book, Bryson (who I love to read) goes on to say of our language,

“One of the abiding glories of English is that it has no governing authority, no group of august worthies empowered to decree how words may be spelled and deployed. We are a messy democracy, and all the more delightful for it. We spell eight as we do not because that makes sense, but because that is the way we like to spell it. When we tire of a meaning or usage or spelling – when we decide, for example, that masque would be niftier as mask – we change it, not by fiat but by consensus. The result is a language that is wonderfully fluid and accommodating, but also complex, undirected and often puzzling – in a word, troublesome.”

I find that rapturing, as in when rapture means ecstasy, bliss, exaltation, euphoria, elation, joy, enchantment, delight, happiness, and pleasure. My feet are planted firmly on the ground and shall remain so, no matter who’s coming or how often.

Look both ways when wordsmithing or researching meaning and spelling.
Mind the gaps in dictionaries, they often mean something.
With your merciful pardon and leave, I shall write on, seeking
the dispensation and assistance of good spellers.
My eternal envy and gratitude are theirs.

15 thoughts on “Essay: Rapturous Word Smithery

    1. I had to google it: “A sniglet (/ˈsnɪɡlɪt/) is an often humorous word made up to describe something for which no dictionary word exists.” There are books. I may go half price books this afternoon. 🙂

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  1. There’s a word that I made up but I don’t remember it until I use it and then I think, wait a minute, I made that word up! If I use it anytime this week I’ll come back and post it.

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