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June 28, 2014

What Makes A Word 'Real'?

In the English language, words come from just about anywhere; technical jargon, international contact and sometimes misunderstanding or...

...mis-hearing something.

But what makes a word acceptable to use?

Sometimes popular usage, especially in journals or media, but it can also happen that a word, or term, especially slang, just becomes embedded in language even when 'respectable' sources don't use it.

'Ain't' for example, will never go away, precisely because it is so darn universal and useful.

But what about a word like 'hangry' or 'ginormous'?

Here's a link to a TED Talk that describes the process a word goes through to become 'real' - http://www.ted.com/talks/anne_curzan_what_makes_a_word_real.

I'm not a big fan of text terms (LOL, OMG, etc) but I have been known to make up - or mangle - words so that they fit my particular situation or meaning.

With the structure of words based on roots, prefixes and suffixes, new words are likely to continue to be a constant feature of a living English language.

As always, send us any new words or phrases that baffle you and be sure to let us know what it is about English and language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.

Morf

Posted by mmorf at June 28, 2014 11:38 PM

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