Language: Making Up Words As You Go Along


There’s something about a brown paper packages all tied up with string; or rather big card boxes glued up with industrial strength tape and twine that’s almost impossible to cut, even with a massive pair of scissors.  I’m feeling extremely satiated today on the ‘I’ve just got a big parcel front’ and it’s all thanks to the courier service that delivered it.  There was nothing that interesting in the package to be honest, it was their delivery that made my day and the lessons it taught me in making up words, or perhaps not, as the case may be.   

A Pinned Down Language is a Dead One

Apart from the joy of live online tracking of my package as it made its way from Birmingham to Carlisle and then half way back again (a bit logistically challenged this company) I also had the joy of examining their approach to inventing new words and why sometimes it’s a good idea and why sometimes not.  So first things first, I’ve nothing against making up words; it’s a good thing, it’s largely what puts the ‘creative’ into writing.  Those who claim that languages should be pinned down and pressed into dictionaries are daft.  Language is alive, should be allowed to remain that way and new words should be accepted for what they are, living things.  Shakespeare (whatever you think of him) did it all the time; in his day dictionaries had yet to be invented and when they were, about 200 years later, a lot of his words got stuffed into them.  Languages die without new words, but creating them should be done for the right reasons.

Did I mention my big package?

So back to my lovely big package; part of the fun of modern packages is that you can track them, which is a bit like sanctioned stalking.  It’s also a great way to entertain yourself if you enjoy a bit of delayed gratification; hey, it’s in Birmingham! Woo-hoo, now it’s on the M6! Heck, what’s it doing in Carlisle! That sort of thing.  But it can also give you some insights into the unfortunate world of corporate attempts at getting creative.  My package spent rather a long time in this particularly courier firms “Sortation Hub”.  My spell check is still blushing over that one, as it did the first time I put it into a document to check if it was a real word.  I decided, as it was obviously neither American or British, I’d give it a go on the thesaurus.  The choices I was offered were; serration, oration, striation, notation, rotation, situation, potation, serrations, satiation.  Ah; The Satiation Hub, now that makes sense, perhaps it was a typo. 

The Satiation Hub

The concept of a Satiation Hub made more sense when I discovered that the tracking service promised I would be satiated between 13:51 and 14:51; which is a pretty darn specific promise if you ask me.  In addition it even advised me I’d be satiated by a man called Duncan.  Admittedly that much detail was beginning to sound like a rather dubious prediction by a rather dubious fortune teller (or hopelessly optimistic horoscope writer).  Goodness knows what Duncan (rather disappointing and a bit past his best, as it turned out) thinks of his job description, which is presumably something along the lines of ‘customer satiation operative’. 

Creatively Challenged?

Making up words is fine, as long as there’s a reason for it, which in the case of the nameless corporate firm of couriers above there wasn’t.  Calling a sorting office a sorting office or a depot a depot, as the old saying now goes, is no bad thing.  Yes, both sound prosaic, boring, a bit Royal Mail, but they are what they are; Sortation Hub doesn’t sound cool, doesn’t sound clever, doesn’t sound particularly space age and it doesn’t even sound that creative.  It sounds very like it’s trying to be all of those things and sadly not quite managing it.  The Satiation Hub on the other hand; now that sounds like fun. 

Being Brave

So, the point is, if you’re going to make up words, be brave about it, be creative about it and don’t for Pete’s sake do it to sound creative.  I’m afraid it goes to show that language can be manipulated, played with and thoroughly re-invented, but it’s probably best not done just for the sake of it.  Sometimes a bit of plain English is all you need.

Whether it’s for a guest blog or a block buster, creating new words is a great way to make your writing stand out, as long as it’s done with some care and attention! 

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