BY LÓRIEN MACENULTY
Erinaceous – (adj.) of, pertaining to or resembling a hedgehog.
Indeed, a word you never knew existed is scribed ever so eloquently on page 371 in the fifth volume of the Oxford English Dictionary. In fact, there are probably hundreds of words that you never knew existed, all of which lie between the folds of the world’s largest compilation of vocabulary.
To accentuate upon your oblivion, here is another:
Petrichor – (n.) the smell of earth after rain.
Lettitor – (n.) abbreviation for “Letter-from-the-Editor,” because yours truly is obviously incapable of speaking correctly.
Words are hard.
I have a reason for sharing these pieces of enlightenment with you, aside from the initial expectation that you all will replace your everyday vocabulary, consisting currently of words like hashtag and twerk, with those more eloquent in nature such as bibble and tittynope.
While extensively amusing in their own rite, I couldn’t help but ponder the scenarios that led to the creation of such fantabulous diction. Why on earth would one have a need for such a word as erinaceous? Maybe the author found his grandmother’s walk to be awkwardly waddle-like, so much so that it brought to mind a traveling hedgehog. Or perhaps, he came across a strangely erinaceous tuft of grass blowing in the wind while he took his Saint Bernard on a leisurely walk. Whatever the case, the stars must have lined up in just the right way, which consequently allowed for exactly the right events, and by coincidence a new word was born!
“Oh Sherlock, what do we say about coincidence?”
“The universe is rarely so lazy.”
So why, then, do such words exist in the English language? Neologists know the answer.
You see, the neologist is a creature that is neurotically obsessed with the idea of communication. They want to say exactly the right words to describe to you, the reader, the very situation before them. If you do not see what they see or feel what they feel, then they have failed in their task and must try and try again until the picture in your head matches the picture in theirs.
In this pursuit, they ultimately find that the English language is no longer a tool for communication, it’s a limitation. Even after hours of scouring the immensity of the Oxford English Dictionary, one will find that there are no words to instigate that exact telepathic connection between writer and reader. Sometimes there just isn’t the right word to describe what is in your heart. So when staring at that blank sheet of telepathic potential, what do neologists do? They invent new words.
Thus, writers find themselves in quite a predicament. As much as it is amusing, lexicology, I find, is not satisfactorily significant.
I’m sure Shakespeare found himself in similar circumstances, hence why his works are plagued with nonexistent expressions of heartfelt emotion. In fact, dishearten is one of such words, along with savagery, arouse, gnarled, cold-blooded. The list goes on. And yet, despite their unofficial presence, they manage to communicate all the same.
As Vladimir Nabokov well understood, “The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.”
Neology is an art of expressional communication, much like angsty painting or rebelliously heavy makeup. Conclusively, if something as fundamental as the English language gets in the way of transcendental expression, the answer is simple: I’ll invent new words.