A short note on Neologism and its kinds, and examples

Neologism is a newly coined word; sometimes a phrase. Neologisms are entering languages all the time and are a necessary invigorating influence. Every language can alter its vocabulary very easily, which means that every user can without effort adopt new words, accept or invent new meanings for existing words, and, of course, cease to use some words or cease to use them in certain meanings. Dictionaries identify some words and some meanings as “obsolete” or “obsolescent” to indicate this process. They are basically of three kinds: (a) a completely new word (e.g. hep; cf. hippie, hepcat, hepster) without any discernible etymological origin; (b) a word formed from an existing root or prefix (e.g. the many from stereo- para-, hetero-); (c) an established word (e.g. beat, dig, high) which has been given a completely new meaning.

Neologisms can also be formed by blending words, for example, “brunch” is a blend of the words “breakfast” and “lunch”.

Even the title of a book may become a neologism, for instance, Catch 22(from the title of Joseph Heller‘s novel). Alternatively, the author’s name may give rise to the neologism, although the term is sometimes based on only one work of that author. This includes such words as “Orwellian” (from George Orwell, referring to his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty Four) and “Kafkaesque” (from Franz Kafka), which refers to arbitrary, complex bureaucratic systems.

Names of famous characters are another source of literary neologisms, e.g. quixotic (referring to the romantic and misguided title character in Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes), scrooge (from the avaricious main character in  Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol).

Many neologisms are acronyms. In many instances, people have forgotten how or why the word was created in the first place by abbreviation using the initial letters. An obvious example of this is quango (Quasi-Autonomous Non Governmental sometimes National Government – Organization).

Here follow a handful of neologisms of the fairly recent invention: (a) bubble-headed: frivolous, flighty; (b) camcorder: the video camera and sound recorder combined in one unit; (c) eurocrat: an official concerned with any organization within the European Union (they tend to use a lingo known as ‘Euro-babble’); (d) grammy: (from gramophone) an award, corresponding to the cinema Oscar, bestowed by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences; (e) necklacing: barbaric form of punishment by which a petrol-soaked tyre is placed around the victim’s neck and ignited (used in South Africa by blacks against blacks thought to be government sympathizers); (f) poop scoop/pooper scooper: an implement/instrument for lifting and removing faeces (especially one used by dog owners and by environmental statisticians making faecal surveys); (g) power breakfast/lunch/tea: high-level business discussion held during such a meal; (h) quadrella: an Australian term for a group of four (especially the last four) horse-races at a meeting for which the punter selects the four winners; (i) Stellenbosch, to: to relegate to a post where incompetence matters less (from Stellenbosch, Cape of Good Hope, such a dumping ground); (j) vtol: an acronym for a system enabling aircraft to land and take off vertically (vertical take-off and landing).

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