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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Why Make Up New Words?

Someone in Dialogue was wondering about the relationship of the experience to the word for it. I think what they were saying was that language is a code for the cultural agreement of experience, and that experience "drives" someone to make a word for it. I'm not sure about this - what do you think?

Voicebox - drawing by Franis Engel Drawn during Dialogue by Franis

When a person has an experience, the language they happen to know structures what they may say about it and how they describe it - as well as their command of the language. The lack of language to describe certain common human experiences begs for the various artistic disciplines. Why else would the arts exist if not to describe what language can't quite cover?

I've had some "unexplained experiences" that didn't fit into anything that I previously knew a person could experience. After such and my attempts to describe it, I also noticed that the person you tell your raw experience to tends to structure how you express yourself about it. Much later I realized it was important for me to go back to remembering the raw original experience, instead of remembering what I said about it to the first person with whom I communicated.

Usually it doesn't occur to people to "make up a word" to describe an experience. It's only when a bunch of people get together and share or have a similar experience or idea that they imagine it is unique enough to need a new word.

People rightly question if there is no need for a particular new word because it's just like this other word or combination of words that are good enough. But I also know that's a classic way of dismissing new ideas - to say it's identical to the old ideas.

I'm asking here, these are my honest questions, without any intention of disrespect. What is the difference between this word you want to make up and the word people use? Why use this use of the word, instead of the usual word, and then qualify it as being a similar or dissimliar? Is it the Greek historical continuity that people want to refer to by using the word? Do people draw a parallel between it and a similar or inter-relationship with the word - and if so, what is that commonality or difference and is it important enough to create a new word? Would a person be using this new word ratio to talk about the commonality of reason?

When I run into a new word/concept that I learn, I also want to learn about how to use the word in context so that other people can understand what makes it unique and why there is a need for the word.

This comes from my own distaste for "buzz words," which came from learning Neuro-linguistic Programming. Also, I had childhood history of being raised by well-read parents who did not differentiate between using a "big word" and "kid friendly" word. As a kid I was accused by other children for showing off my intelligence/knowledge, when I was just being articulate. This made me come to dislike shows of arrogance, and the divisiveness created by name-dropping and using words without explaining their meaning. If I can educate people, I can accept that's valuable, because I can explain what the new word means, and why there is a need for it. But I hate using new words as if they are name-dropping...and I hate name-dropping. That's why people often don't drop names without providing a link for those who aren't familiar with the content of what we're referring to. - Although I think that whatever someone has to say is authority enough to make me think more about it, I think that's a wonderful and polite way of accommodating people who are learning new concepts and words.

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