I'm going to make up a new word today, because I can and because I feel it would be useful. Everyone should try this once in a while.
My word is a simple compound: necroblog. It's a noun, referring to the blogs that are started and then abandoned, lying dry and dusty on forgotten servers, fossils of a previous age.
Often, necroblogs have final posts (in 2007 or 2008) which promise to begin posting more regularly.
There. I've released my word into the world. It will likely wither and die (like most blogs, in fact) but it might flourish and mutate and spin off new words of its own.
Blog itself was a new word not long ago, from weblog, which was a combination of log, as in journal or ship's log, and web, as in Internet, or thing Vic Toews does not understand.
Words like blog obviously expand our lexicon, but they also expand our ability to think.
There's a concept that's been floating around for a long time, called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (no, it has nothing to do with Star Trek), also known as linguistic relativity.
It suggests that the way we think is limited, or at least influenced, by the words we use.
If you don't have a word for a particular concept, it's more difficult to think about that idea, to explore its ramifications.
This sounds depressing at first, and many of the interpretations you can find online suggest that a language that lacks certain words creates a society that has trouble dealing with certain concepts.
But the flip side of this is that if we continually add more words to our language, we are actually making our minds expand. And nobody adds words to their language like English-speakers.
English has well over 250,000 words, and new ones (like necroblog - use it today!) are added on a regular basis.
English is, in fact, the ugly mutt of languages. It's a crude hybrid of a Germanic language (Old English) and a Latin-descended language (Norman French).
After those two languages had a shotgun marriage courtesy of the Battle of Hastings, they gave birth to a kind of amorphous blob thingy, as English rapidly absorbed any word it found useful from any other language. It also generated new words in great profusion, from the words Shakespeare added to the lexicon, to the modern technical and scientific terms that describe how our world is changing.
For example, in the late 1700s, fossils of critters that later turned out to be extinct animals were found.
By the 1800s, they were dubbed dinosaurs, or pterosaurs, or ichthyosaurs, and their names began to enter the vernacular.
We can now describe aging institutions as dinosaurs and everyone knows what we mean.
Was there a word before dinosaur that described something that was out of date and due to go extinct? Perhaps, and one could sum it up in a phrase.
But no word was quite the same. There are few perfect synonyms in even a language as overstuffed with words as English.
Sometimes you need exactly the right one to get your meaning across.
It certainly makes conversations shorter. I don't have to say "those little faces and symbols you make with your keyboard" when I can just say "emoticons." I don't have to endlessly explain the movement to release information for free when I can say "copyleft." And rather than using the word in its old sense, to speak about light and refraction, and I can use "optics" to sum up how a political act will look to the general public.
Adding new words is so much fun, you could even say it's scrumfullious, blargrastic, or hepsitudinal.
Matthew Claxton is a reporter with the Langley Advance, a sister paper of The Record.