I was delighted to discover this morning that a word I wanted to use in an e-mail to a fellow blogger was not in any dictionary.
Not in any dictionary?
My exultation was a result of the happy realization that a word I suspected I had just coined moments earlier was, in fact, exactly that—just coined … by me!
What gives you the right, you ask. I’ll tell you what: It works. It’s a good word. A useful word. In fact, come to think of it, my new word is mot juste—exactly the right word for my intended meaning. But understand, it’s not the word itself that’s key—it’s the audience for whom it is intended. It’s a word that distinguishes a writer of uninspired, unremarkable content from a focused and creative author. And considering the plethora of new words arriving at our doorsteps each day, who says I’m not qualified? Or entitled?
The word to which I gave birth in the wee hours of the morn—instantaneously making me a neologist—is recrafting. But before you go around using it without my permission, and then having it go viral without so much as a royalty check arriving in my mailbox, let me explain how it should be used. I used it when I suggested to my blogger friend that he change some copy.
It’s pretty basic: Rewriting is something anyone can do—change a word here or there, but … recrafting is something the skilled writer does. The skilled writer goes the extra mile: He replaces entire phrases, makes sure all of the punctuation is correct, reviews and revises the syntax, and above all—checks for grammatical perfection.
Writing to Uncle Joe probably isn’t all that crucial to your happiness or well-being—unless it concerns a forthcoming inheritance. But a skilled writer—an artiste as it were—doesn’t just rewrite; he reworks his medium—hence, recraft. And because I consider this blogger to be an above-average writer, I felt that my new word would be appropriate for his level of expertise—and an acknowledgement of his skill.
As my vocation requires me to read and edit continually changing, up-to-date information—much of it business-related content—six days per week, I am daily made aware of our ever-changing vocabulary. Notice I didn’t write ever-expanding. That’s because I believe, although it may seem our vocabulary must be bulging at the seams by now, the American language (i.e., a counterpart to the English language used everywhere else) is more like the waves at the shore: Some new words come in—frothing with excitement and enthusiasm, racing toward us with an intensity that is difficult to stand against—and can even throw us off balance for a time—but many are swept away forever with the undertow of apathy, illiteracy, and obsolescence.
My acceptance of—or disdain for—recent additions to the American lexicon depends primarily upon my personal feelings about how language should be treated. As a copy editor, my tendency is to maintain a strict discipline not unlike a British army officer commanding his troops: “Steady, lads, steady … watch those apostrophes. Don’t use ’em until you’ve a legitimate place to put ’em … Fire! No, corporal! After the s! It’s a plural possessive! Are ya daft!?”
But I also accept the fact that language must—and will—evolve. I used to be repulsed by that notion, but as I gave it some thought—and as I got too worn out to resist any longer—I realized that if it were not so, we’d all still be perambulating about the marketplace and confabulating with oure neighbors: “Fie! I say! The kumquats art foul as they were harvested ere ripening!”
“Hark! Fain wouldst I peregrinate hence to the adjoining borough for fresher foodstuffs.”
But … times change—and now we are told to chillax while on staycation.
(That my software inserted red lines under those two words is evidence that something is amiss.) But I’ll just go ahead and add them to my spelling checker—which, in a way, seems like admitting defeat. (I’ll do it when no one’s looking.)
And I must remember, as the description of this category states, sometimes language evolves—whether I accede to adaptation or forbear assimilation.