An invented word was submitted to this column for inclusion in the Ultimate Dictionary of Lost and Forbidden Words. Newsletter Editor Kathryn Ptacek, a person in possession of more dictionaries than can easily be explained, created the new word, evercheckiness.
A less forceful transitive verb in this vein would be double-check: to examine twice for accuracy. Double-check first appeared in the same year as antigravity, debug, fan fiction, glop, live-in, and top secret. Care to guess which year? Answer below.
Kathy invented the word while discussing whether new writing should be double, triple, or quadruple-checked for errors, deciding that the wise author should attain a state of evercheckiness. Definition: to proof as a state of being, as opposed to a once-repeated act of examining content for errors. It is possible to make an argument that a subsidiary definition is called for. Evercheckiness might be considered a psychological condition in some circles, best treated by physicians of the highest caliber.
Lexicographers add words to the world’s dictionaries on the basis of common use and endurance over time. There are two approaches, descriptive and prescriptive. The former considers how the word is used, which may include slang. The latter values correct use.
A truly great new word can be validated via award, such as humorist Stephen Colbert’s truthiness, which the American Dialect Society awarded as the 2005 word of the year. The YouTube clip is a must see.
Are words routinely invented, or is English, for the most part, a landlocked lake, self-sufficient to itself? Yes and no. Author James Joyce invented dozens of new expressions, but only a few survived to modern times, a unique one being: tattarrattat. Definition: a series of short, sharp rapping or tapping sounds.
Superman was first coined by Friedrich Nietzsche in Also Sprach Zarathustra, 1883. Nietzsche created the term Ubermensch to describe “an ideal man of the future.” George Bernard Shaw translated this as Superman for his 1903 drama Man and Superman. It remained for Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster to apply the name to an “almost invincible superhero having the power to fly” in the 1930s.
Author William Gibson invented the compound noun cyberspace in the 1981 short story “Burning Chrome,” published in Omni in 1982. Definition: the environment in which electronic communication occurs.
Horror writer Joseph Payne Brennan’s term mind-rat saw publication in the poem “The Ugly, Avoided Places,” in Creep To Death, 1981. Brennan was a gifted poet, and the term describes deeply felt dread, creating spiritual doubt.
H.P. Lovecraft’s shadow-haunted appears throughout his canon, often used to describe the legendary town of Arkham, where a portion of his fiction was set. Definition: shadows of supernatural origin capable of occult influence.
Doublethink had its origin in George Orwell’s 1984. Definition: acceptance of contrary beliefs and opinions at the same time. While not often considered so, doublethink might be considered mental preparation for evercheckiness.
Should an author invent words? Yes. The need to do so is as inevitable as a gifted chef reaching for an ingredient that does not exist. In this age of ultra-sharp criticism, it might be best to list oneself as the creator of unusual words in attributions. Should the term “Colbert Fellow” be considered? Probably not. He’d probably invite you to explain your invent-a-concept.
Send lost or seldom-used words to email@example.com.
Attribution: Merriam Webster, Oxford University Press, the Consolidated Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary, Collins Dictionary, Arkham House, Donald M. Grant, Publisher. THE COLBERT REPORT. Vice. The Guardian. The entire research section of the Jefferson County Library. Wikipedia, double-checked. Answer: 1944.
Kathryn Ptacek is the author of more than twenty novels. Gila!, written as Les Simmons, is a must-read for every horror fan. Perhaps she should invent another new word: gila-think!