Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Why Is Only Shakespeare Allowed To Create New Words?

by Charlie Clarke

Shakespeare created many new English words, including really brilliant words like amazement, laughable, lonely, majestic, suspicious and bloody.  The great English writer saw the words we didn't even know we needed and wasn't afraid to experiment.  I'm having trouble finding a list of words that Shakespeare coined that are now defunct, partly because the word defunct was itself invented by Shakespeare.  For instance, he tried unhair twice, "Like balls before me; i'll unhair thy head."  It doesn't seem to have caught on (though Scrabble will accept it).

So when did lovers of English become haters of new words?  Here is Paul Krugman:
1. How can we incentivize students to stop using “impact” as a verb?
2. How can we impact their writing in a way that stops them from using the word “incentivize”?
3. Can we make it a principal principle of writing that “principle” and “principal” mean different things, and you have to know which is which?
I have no problem with Krugman's distaste for "impact" as it doesn't seem any more useful than affect, and point three is just a usage error.  But why do so many old people hate the word incentivize?  Incentivize is a useful word.  The antineologists (not a word, should it be?) seem to prefer encourage or motivate, but they are hardly interchangeable.  Incentivize means "to motivate with incentives" or "to motivate with concrete financial rewards."  A coach motivates his players, but the GM incentivizes them.  Why insist the GM encourage them with incentives?  If the new CEO should do a better job incentivizing employees, no one would confuse that with more heartfelt speeches.

Why not insist that MacBeth's hands be covered with blood, rather than bloody.  They could be bloodstained, except that too was invented by Shakespeare.  Why do antineologists only seem to care about the creation of modern words, and when did they decide the words we had were enough?

I don't suggest we accept every new word or even every word that becomes popular, but I would like less discussion of words we dislike and more discussion of why we dislike them.  Innovation in language can be useful and new words that become popular may be useful, even beautiful. 

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