Words that should exist but don’t

Words. I tend to think a lot about them. They seem like logical, reasonable constructions, yet they hide subtleties within them that confuse and perplex me. Perhaps if I had a Classical education I would understand them better, but as it is I am often baffled.

Today I’m thinking about words that should exist but don’t.

I don’t mean silly made-up words like fumblebluster (someone who blusts a fumble?), but sensible, logical words that really should exist, but don’t seem to have been thought of. They are like holes in the English language that could be really useful, if only someone had bothered to add them to the dictionary. Here are some examples of missing words, with some suggested meanings:

  • Mistrapolate – to extrapolate erroneously.
  • Disguided – given the wrong directions.
  • Mistribute – to share unfairly.
  • Reavoidable – worth avoiding more than once.
  • Obnostic – disgusted by the lack of evidence for God.
  • Remotional – used to describe the kind of person who breaks down in tears every single freakin’ time.

Do you see what I mean? These words should exist! They would be so useful, and there is no logical reason for them not to exist. Can anyone explain why English is so full of holes? Or perhaps you would like to propose some other non-words and suggest their possible meanings?

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37 responses to “Words that should exist but don’t

  1. I like all of your proposed words.

    Here’s a word for you based upon my cross-country train trip from San Francisco to Boston. The word is “Amtraked.” It’s a verb and it means to arrive many hours late to your destination. Example: “I’m sorry I missed your wedding. I was Amtraked.” This might not work in the UK, though.

    • I like that a lot, and I think it could work anywhere. I often get Amtraked myself. This is a really useful word because it implies that your late arrival was someone else’s fault. I could use this word a lot.

  2. I think our former president, George W. Bush, may have actually used some of these.

  3. Never thought about holes in the language. Every time I go into the grocery store to look for something, my husband and I get into this argument:
    “Ask someone.”
    “No, I’ll find it.”
    “C’mon, ASK.”
    “No, they don’t know.”
    Now I can respond, “No. If I ask, I know I’ll be disguided.”
    And then we’ll get into another argument over whether or not ‘disguided’ is a word. And then I’ll say “It’s been published,” and I’ll send him here!

  4. Yes, you can now google these words. As of today, they do exist!

  5. Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong

    “Can anyone explain why English is so full of holes?”

    The idea language should meet three criteria.
    1. Every word is composed of from a finite number of symbols (the less the better), such as the 26 alphabets.
    2. The pronunciation of every word can be read out from its face.
    3. The key meaning of every word can be read out from its face.

    This idea language can only be constructed with a 100% root-system (not alphabet system). With a root-system, unlimited number of words can be constructed, that is, there will be no hole at all.

    The only 100% root-based language is Chinese (see, http://www.chineselanguageforums.com/chinese-idioms/part-three-the-new-chinese-etymology-t229.html ).

  6. Fan of Dickens

    I bet you have read “The Meaning of Liff” by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd, a dictionary of words that should exist but don’t? It is such a laugh, isn’t it? My favourite is the definition of that daft half-bend you do when you are arriving late at the theatre or cinema and don’t want to get in anyone’s way. I love your “remotional” definition. How about a word for someone who talks at you, and at you, and JUST DOESN’T LISTEN? A friend and I came up with “non listener”, but that is terribly prosaic. I am sure you could come up with a better one!

  7. Lord, those words baffle me. I’m not near smart enough to be here, lol!

  8. I love them all and intend to add them to my vocabulary at once…I don’t care if they’re not “real” words. 🙂 Mistrapolate is my particular favorite.

    We do have one very silly word that we use at home. At some point, we realized there was really no way to say “I wasn’t talking to you” without sounding rude, so we made up the word “gooblesnorf” for that purpose. For example…
    Me to John: What would you like me to make you for lunch?
    Grace: What?
    Me: Gooblesnorf. That was for Daddy.
    It’s silly, but it works for us. 😀

  9. Hmmm. Not to be argumentative, but you did ask…

    Mistrapolate – to extrapolate erroneously – True, but then we’d need misterpolate as well
    Disguided – given the wrong directions – What is wrong with the existing word “misguided”?
    Mistribute – to share unfairly – There is nothing in “distribute” than suggests fairness, so why do we need a word about unfairness?
    Reavoidable – worth avoiding more than once. – “Avoidable” says nothing about the worth of avoiding, simple its possibility. That exists for a repeat occasion already.
    Obnostic – disgusted by the lack of evidence for God. – This suggestion is MISGUIDED in many ways.
    Remotional – used to describe the kind of person who breaks down in tears every single freakin’ time. – OK – This one is good. We could use it.

    • MIsterpolate – yes, good one.
      Disguided – means mistakenly directed, rather than the implied harmful negativity that goes with misguided.
      Distribute is neutral. I added the mis prefix to indicate that something is wrong. Like misappropriate.
      Reavoidable – yes, you are correct, but adding the re- prefix emphasises the point.
      Obnostic – well, hey I’m just being silly. Obnoxious + agnostic seemed like an interesting combo.
      Remotional – glad you liked it.

  10. I like these. One word I wanna see out there in ze engrish language is … I’ve forgotten what it is. I’ll get back to you; I have many.

    • Good, I thought of more too whilst brushing my teeth, but forgot them by the time I was sitting in front of my computer. Hate it when that happens. There ought to be a word to describe it.

  11. I like them all, especially the last one!!!!

  12. I love the sound of “fumblebluster” – it sounds like a Hobbit word!

  13. What’s interesting about this is that many words that we use today initially filled a hole that used to exist, sometimes across all languages, something we have to remember when reading old material. Listening to a podcast the other day that discussed the pre-Socratic philosophers, it was mentioned that Thales saying everything was “alive”, including rivers and rocks (which sounds nutty to us), was probably the result of a limitation in language at the time to describe a complex dynamic system.

  14. I suggest looking up John McWhorter and/or Ann Curzan. They’re popular linguists and they have a lot of interesting things to say about why English is the way it is. They’re both super informative. Curzan recently did a TED talk on how made-up words become “real” words.

  15. Reavoidable and Remotional being ma fav…lovely post steve….i mean wow

  16. I would hazard a guess that someday your made-up words will be the dictionary. Seems as if new ones are popping into our vocabularies every day. And some that are in the dictionary, such as “misspoke”, when I first heard it used–by a politician–I looked it up, thinking there was no such word, that it was just a way to get out of admitting one lied. Well I was wrong. I mistrapolated.

  17. I love ‘remotional’ hahaha

  18. Reblogged this on Amber Unraveled and commented:

    This guy knows what’s up. one word = seriously.

  19. This is one of my favourite pastimes! It’s my personal challenge to insert as many made-up words into the language as possible after I discovered that a word has to be in common use/misuse to make it into the dictionary. The word I was objecting to when I was informed by the ANU of how the sytem works -irregardless – mentioning it ties my brain in knots. With practice, so far I have successfully managed to get a few made up words to be repeated to me in earnest by people who have totally forgotten how they heard it. One is wibble; something people do when they walk. By far the most popular one isn’t so much made-up as misappropriated. Output-only; referring to people who do all the talking and do not register a single thing anyone else says – last year I said this causally during a crisis meeting of highly-intelligent, but somewhat dense, IT professionals and other authoritative business types. I can say dense because my solution was to believe the errors in the logs and take action to prevent them, not very sexy, but the correct path regardless, so how had this become a crisis in the first place? During the next week, the meeting chairperson said output-only in respect to one of the previous meetings participants as though it was perfectly normal business-speak. It was a very proud moment for me. I can see some of your words possibly coming back to you many times over in delightful and amusing ways…

  20. I think that output-only has huge potential to go viral in the business world, especially if we all wibble it along a little. I’ll see if I can drop it into a conversation soon 🙂

  21. This isn’t a lie I promise. Sometimes I type in strange made up words into google images to see what comes up. I typed in fumblebluster and switched to web searches too because the images were boring. This article came up first. I LOVE that it’s in a blog that talks about made up words. And the fact that this article was written 2 years ago makes it even more brilliant to me.

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