Lately, when I read about hate-driven, bigoted and utterly stupid political acts by tiny-minded cretins with venom sacs for brains, I immediately feel like writing a blog post. Then I remind myself: not enough hours in the day.
I can’t write about every hate-driven, bigoted and utterly stupid idea that drives cretinous imaginations, so I’m laying off the specific legislation that inspired this post. While there’s something cathartic about putting my opinion out there, it doesn’t take long to realize that the old saw “pick your battles” does encourage me to leave time to grade papers, hike in the woods, brush teeth, and scan the position descriptions on both HigherEdJobs.com and non-academic sites.
Nevertheless, I’m a true believer that both actions and words can make a difference, and any individual can use both of those to spur change. It’s really the intersection of those ideas that this post is about.
Want to change something? Change the language. Make up a word, then go out and use it.
We do it all the time. Among the Oxford English Dictionary’s list of hundreds of new words for June 2015 is “carnapping.” In use for some time, the word is now official — along with the like of “e-cig,” “eliminationism,” and “wuss,” to name just a few.
“Car” is a word whose etymology apparently dates back at least to a time when two-wheeled Celtic chariots were in use. Given its roots, “car” was probably a no-brainer by the time the automobile was invented, as its variants were useful for describing any wheeled vehicle from the chariot to those big rolling boxes that link together to form trains.
And there’s no doubt that somebody had to utter that first guttural sound describing the chariot, just as someone needed to combine the form “-nap” with “car” once we became civilized enough to steal automobiles and write bigoted, hate-drive and stupid legislation.
In any event, the real point here is that I recently decided I needed new menu labels on my blog. “Preposterous ideas” was one of several that took up more space than is optimal for portable devices, as my friend Mary Mielke had pointed out to me. (Mary is UW-Stevens Point’s D2L/Brightspace guru.)
So I started looking for ways to shorten them and allow my menus to fit on a single line for small-screen devices. Cutting “Australia Trip” and “Yellowstone Trip” was easy. “Teaching & Journalism” was a little more difficult, and I’ve settled for the hybrid “Journo*teach” (which I didn’t make up — there’s a Reddit board dedicated to teaching journalism with basically the same name, and the term “journo” has long been short for “journalist”).
It was, however, coming up with something shorter than “preposterous ideas” that first engrossed me, and I quickly came around to the question of whether the term “preposterosity” exists.
When I didn’t fit it on my go-to source for definitions, dictionary.com, I quickly discovered the quirky and wonderful site Wordnik, which first made me believe “preposterosity” is an unloved and uncared-for word. No definitions, no etymologies.
I was almost ready to spring for the 50 bucks it would cost to adopt it for a year, if for no other reason than to lend some legitimacy to my blog’s menu.
Yes, you really can do that. Not the legitimacy thing, but the adoption thing.
But — and this is why I still love Google, regardless of its corporate behemothousness — we see that preposterosity does indeed have homes where it is loved:
- Blogger/singer “Don Gino” uses the term to describe things in his own ruminations about making up words.
- There’s a Twitter handle, although inactive.
- It looks like there has been an arts event with the name. Here’s another link.
- There’s a Preposterosity Institute. Kind of.
- And National Review writer John Derbyshire likes the term (aside: I normally wouldn’t link to this site with a million dead rattlesnakes laid end-to-end).
Granted, it looks like the inhabitants of a couple of these homes are sleeping. Some sites haven’t been active for a while. But I’ve seen enough to rename my menu, as there’s clearly a lot of love for preposterosity on the Internet.
And in our legislatures.
So I implore everyone: use the words you have, or make up new ones, and sling them both joyfully and mercilessly.