1. Paki-Writing
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    Paki-Writing Member

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    Coining words

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Paki-Writing, Mar 14, 2009.

    This post is in response to something I read on this site. I wanted to ask about the coining of words in the evolution of language. Before I ask, I want you guys to read want prompted me to write this.

    While it is technically correct that ic in alcoholic is what transforms the word to describe someone addicted to alcohol, why is it wrong of a language to evolve to use holic as a suffix to describe someone that's addicted to the word it's attached to? After all, isn't workaholic a word that is in found in the dictionary?

    I'm asking this because I'm assuming that the English language has changed and evolved over the years, hence there are standard rules and usages of the language now that weren't standard in the past. I don't know the history of the English language, so I may be wrong. However, I love this site and learn a lot from it, so I'm asking you guys your opinion on the matter. What do you guys think?
     
  2. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    Standard rules and usages are pretty much based on the way the majority writes. As the way the majority writes changes, so do the standard rules. People transform words all the time and some transformations have become popular enough to make it into the dictionary. Get enough people to use -holic as a suffix and eventually it'll become official too.
     
  3. Paki-Writing
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    Paki-Writing Member

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    So to you, comaholic is a correct word is enough people start using it to mean someone that's addicted to using commas? Or more generally, if enough people start using "holic" as a suffix, it ends up being official, hence no longer wrong?
     
  4. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    Yes, that's about it, but many words can be attached to -holic, so the usage may be official, but not all of the words that it can help to form are going to make it spelling wise. English is full of compounds and people combine meanings to make unconventional words all the time. Take the suffix, "ness" for example. It's official as a suffix, but not all words it can be attached to are in the dictionary even though the usage is correct.
     
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    The Confessions of a Shopaholic.

    Would be funny as shopic, or shopaic.
     
  6. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I think it's sad when a nonsensical word becomes official... and it's frustrating because academic types like myself will always rebel. I think it's best to avoid nonsensical words and slang in literary work in any case. It gives the impression of being ignorant/uneducated, regardless of whether the word is official or not. Stupid words will always annoy certain people.

    As for every day speech, well... what you might call evolution I would call degradation, though I don't really mind as long as the speaker knows it's silly (which they usually do). Words like workaholic feel like net speak. It's convenient (for some people) in the same way as writing 'u' in place of 'you' or the number 8 in place of the sound 'ate'. It can be fun to play with... but none of this deserves serious consideration, IMO. It's all on an equal level to me.

    Recently a bit of joking net speak was posted in the newcomers section, and then someone inquired after the mysterious code. There are countless people who write with numbers instead of letters etc... It's the 'in' thing right now, but would you want it to be official, and have to read books written in code? English is confusing enough as it is without deliberately mucking it up further.

    Look at the corruption of English in general. Selectively using stupid words is a lot like picking through a bunch of moldy raspberries, savouring a few, and tossing the rest with revulsion. Moldy is moldy.

    I just love the English language - always have. Elevating these words to official status seems disrespectful at the least, and often downright apalling.

    There are plenty of people who share my view, so those who insist on using 'evolved' English will inevitably find themselves arguing the validity of their speech. Is it really worth the bother? When trying to communicate, it seems far from ideal.
     
  7. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I have to wonder if people in the 1300-1400's didn't like the way the English language was evolving, which it eventually evolved into what I call Shakespearian English.

    I am sure other people didn't like the way the English language evolved past Shakespearian times, and into something more like we use today.

    This trend will continue, I am sure.

    I for one like new words, as long as they are logical, like workaholic. When I saw that word for the first time, I knew exactly what it meant.

    If I read in a novel, she monkeyed across the bars, I would immediately understand it. I think King used monkeyed like this once in Insomnia.
     
  8. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Well, in this case it's clearly not so much about comprehension. Workaholic is easy to understand. But it invites debate, which just seems tedious.

    With that said... I use the word myself! But not in a serious way. I would never consider it to be anything more than slang. I use hundreds of slang words and phrases, but at least I recognise them as such. Standardising them is unnecessary... people will say what they like, and there's nothing wrong with that. As long as they also know how to speak 'clean' English and know the difference.

    Of course, I'm very opinionated when it comes to wordplay.

    If today's slang is tomorrow's standard, imagine how outlandish the slang would be 1000 years from now! That conjures up some interesting science fiction material...:p
     
  9. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I'm thinking like we have Spanglish today, in the future we might have Japanglish.
     
  10. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    It all depends on the context. If you are telling the story of a child, even in third person, it makes perfect sense to use words like this to convey a certain feeling. Writers constantly invent much more unusual words for certain situations.

    All things are valid in the right place.

    In dialogue, anything goes if it's something the character is likely to say. The same applies in a more limited sense when writing in certain character perspectives, depending on how much character voice you want to come accross in the narative. If you're writing in a perfectly neutral and impassive tone, then it might sound a little odd to use words like workaholic... At least it would to me, because I don't accept the word as standard.
     
  11. Ghosts in Latin
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    Ghosts in Latin Senior Member

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    I've always had an issue with this.

    I began my enjoyment of writing, and my appreciation of the English language with works by Hawthorne and Emerson. Because of this, I was able to see the huge change between their English and our, contemporary English. My style of writing actually emulated theirs, but I figured that to be very unconventional.

    I'm still trying to draw the line, for myself, between evolution of language and devolution of language. What makes it so difficult, though, are questions like:

    If language is meant for communication, then wouldn't the most understood / accepted form of it only serve its purpose?

    Is there any objectivity in a language's meaning?

    How much of an effect does language have on one's intellect?

    Etc.

    Many of the answers I've been able to come up with have lead to the conclusion that language, whatever the change, is always evolving, but that would mean that, "Dawg, why you be cheesin' at his front?" is as proper, if not more proper than, "Sir, why do you smile at this man when, clearly, he's lying to you?" — This is something that I find very difficult to accept.

    Of course, this is an extreme example, on both ends, but you understand my point.
     
  12. Paki-Writing
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    1. The post isn't about how a word becoming official affects people's feelings; it's about how it becomes official.

    2. A word can't be seen as nonsensical and slang, if it's official. So while Shakespeare might have used words considered slang and nonsensical during his time, if it's official during our time, it's not longer slang and nonsensical.

    This post isn't about "evolved" English, but rather "official" English and how things evolved into becoming "official" English. This is regardless of how much one is disrespecting something that isn't alive.

    All this thread is about is, how does something become official, that's it. It's not a post about what should become official.

    I've read old English for my college classes. They spelled things differently centuries ago. It may be appalling how we changed how we spell words, but now the old way words were spelled would be considered incorrect. That's regardless of how offensive (or stupid) the changing in spelling is.
     
  13. Chiwah
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    Chiwah New Member

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    Look up 'neology' in the dictionary and you'll find there's an old word for the creation of new words. Yes, language evolves, and it's we who evolve it. (I imagine there was a time when 'evolve' had no accepted transitive usage.) Similar to the 'alcoholic'/'shopaholic' phenomenon, we have 'economics'/'Reaganomics,' and I predict we'll soon be seeing 'Obamanomics,' which Republicans will then turn into 'abominomics.' The alternative would be to do as the French did in establishing l'Académie Française to rule over standardization. Personally, I think a democratic approach makes the linguistic landscape infinitely more interesting.
     
  14. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I see.

    For some reason I took this as an invitation to debate rather than a question for google. Sorry.

    If you just want to know how nonstandard words become standard, that seems pretty straight forward... not much to discuss, and certainly not a matter of 'opinion' so far as I can see. But it is a worthy subject to research.

    Good luck...
     
  15. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I thought Kas made good points. I don't agree with them all, but they were good.
     
  16. Paki-Writing
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    It would have been good points if he explained himself. It doesn't really benefit me to know how some feels about the evolution of a language. Ok, you don't like words you consider to be stupid to latter be considered official, great. It would have been more beneficial to state why certain words shouldn't become standard.

    If someone wanted to go into why, not just feelings, then they can say, "x" you can make into a standard word without eroding the English language, however, "y" you can't, because it'll erode the English language because of reason "z".

    Something like that would at least tell us why a word like workaholic degrades the English language.

    Just feelings doesn't tell you much, epically to a novice like myself.
     
  17. Ghosts in Latin
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    Ghosts in Latin Senior Member

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    It degrades the English language because it stretches, twists, and clouds the rules that structure it, leaving them in unecessary ambiguity. Take "workoholic", for example. The suffix ic means "of, or pertaining to". Alcoholic, economic, reganomic, etc.

    The acting suffix in the word "workoholic" is "oholic", which isn't really a suffix at all. Other words like "fantastical" also unecessarily tack things onto the ends of words that shouldn't be. Adding the suffix "al" to a word like "fantastic" is like me using the word "densityness" or "roughnessitude".

    I also find it a bit disheartening that a friend had just told me he was informed that taking liberties with writing is frowned upon, which I've heard many times before — yet blatant disregard for the English language seems to be readily embraced, if not encouraged.
     
  18. Paki-Writing
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    learn'in

    I see how ic means of, but that explain why holic degrades the English language. How is adding aholic, to mean being addicted to the word it's attached to, twisting the rules of the English language? The suffix ic is much more general than the suffix aholic. If you want to coin a new word, adding ic isn't as clear as adding holic. I don't understand which rule workaholic twisting.

    If you wanted a suffix to only mean "being addicted to," what would be the correct suffix to use, or invent? Economic doesn't meaning being addicted to the economy. I don't want a general suffix, but a specific one. In one exists, please tell me which one. If one doesn't exist, which one could be invented that wouldn't degrade English? Also, how does the holic suffix leave the English language in "unnecessary ambiguity"?

    I love science, logic, math, and philosophy. English is a weak subject of mine. I can go on and explain at lengths why science is logically weak (there is a difference between logically weak and illogical), but I can't wrap my finger around English. So I got myself a little grammar book and a membership at this site. I'm not trying to argue, but learn. I don't get why workaholic is destroying the English language. (At least I now know understand how something becomes standard!)
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't claim that 'workaholic' and all the other silly 'holic' blends destroy the english language... but they sure destroy my respect for those who use 'em! [ ;-) ]
     
  20. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Beware asking for explanations, directly or indirectly.:p

    Aside from what Ghosts in Latin has already said... I'll drop down to the most basic point I can think of... my first instinctive objection...

    'Holic' puts one in mind of alcohol, because obviously you know where it originates. It isn't a 'clean' suffix, because it carries baggage meaning. It would make more sense to invent an all new, meaningless, blank slate suffix and give it a meaning. That way there can be no question about what it 'literally' means vs the accepted definition. Or extract a suffix from a Latin word meaning addiction in general. Or any languague, really. Many, many words are constructed with a Latin foundation, and English has been influenced by nearly every common language in the world, it seems to me.

    A very basic Latin word is used, or even just a part of one... you add a standard prefix/suffix, join it to a common word that already exists.. etc.. you wind up with something wholly unique, yet easily comprehensible and logical in its most basic recognisable components. There are plenty reasonable ways to do this without forcing a new meaning on a set of letters. Why use a misleading suffix?

    Misleading = confusion = bad communication in the long run.

    Even though I understand it perfectly well, workaholic still makes me think of person who goes to work drunk or drinks on the job. Often you will automatically know the meaning of an unfamiliar word because it contains a prefix, suffix, or some other part of a word that you do know. When you hear 'holic' your brain (probably) automatically makes the connection to alcohol. Alcohol -> drunks -> addicts - that's a very roundabout thought process to arrive at addiction... Why not just start with addiction and say what you mean instead of giving me a mental obstacle course?

    The primary meaning of alcoholic has nothing to do with addiction in the first place. If I were to ask you for an alcoholic beverage, could you procure a drink that is addicted to alcohol?:confused: Cannibal drinks! Or maybe they are sex fiends...

    Commaholic literally means something like... pertaining to alcohol commas or commahol. "Hey buddy, ya got any commahol?? I'm dryin' out here, man!" If holic becomes a standard suffix for addiction 20 years from now, I wouldn't want to be teaching that English class... I remember arguing with my father for half an hour about the silent b in 'climb' when he was teaching me to read. (I was five and eager to point out the silly ways of adults) There are so many odd exceptions to keep track of... and I was always inclined to argue about them.

    Ultimately my teachers would always say "fine - it doesn't make sense. But it is what it is, and you have to memorise it and write it this way anyhow." At least that silent b serves to differentiate between climb and clime - so there is a reason for it (and why didn't my father just say THAT and save me so much frustration? grr). I can't think of one good reason for standardising 'holic' though.

    The only way to accept something like this is to temporarily throw the rules out the window. If you make it a rule, it becomes an exception to other rules. Don't we have enough goofy exceptions to memorise?

    I think the general rule for creating new words from old words is that there should be a literal link... There's no link whatsoever between alcoholic and commaholic except a vague and buggered one...

    Is that enough explanation for you? lol
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    bless you, kas!

    you are clearly a fellow grammarian [not a grammaholic!]
     
  22. Paki-Writing
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    Paki-Writing Member

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    Still not there...

    Thanks for your reply!

    Sorry. No. I'll go into why.

    Ok, this is great information you gave here. This is something I can grasp. You defined something, now let's stick to it. I'm going to talk about what this means to me, and you can elaborate on this if you want.

    I got that bad English is:
    1. Misleading
    2. confus[ing]
    3. bad communication in the long run

    That would mean good English doesn't mislead or confuse, in other words, it's clear. It's not bad communication in the long run, it's clear communication in the long run. Hence, good English is that which communicates clearly in the long run.

    Two things...

    1. What would you use as a suffix?

    2. When I think of workaholic, I don't think of alcohol. I think of someone addicted to work. Workaholic is very clear, there is nothing confusing or misleading about it to me, and I'm assuming that majority of the population in the USA. Whenever holic is added to the word, everyone knows what's meant right away, no need to guess. Even people peeved off from the use, know what it means. In other words, it's clear to everyone. That is good communication in the long run, hence, good English.

    1. Holic isn't a misleading suffix, its meaning is clean to everyone.

    2. Not everyone knows Latin. Adding a suffix, which the general population doesn't know the meaning of, is confusing. What I mean by this is, if all of a sudden, a new word is used, and people don't know what it means, they're confused as to what's meant by the word. That, by your definition, is bad English.

    3. What Latin word would you use to mean addicted to.

    I've never had that problem. When I think of workaholic, I just think of someone addicted to working. In fact, drunk doesn't come in at all, because being addicted to work is at opposition to being drunk. Also, it's never been a mental obstacle course for me. I don't think it's that way for many Americans. If the cognitive process is that way, it's either noticeable by the thinker or not. If it's not noticeable by the thinker, the added pressures of thinking are negligible. If I say I'm a commaholic, it doesn't exactly take years to figure out what that means. It's instantaneous, hence unnoticeable.

    The original meaning of a word and what it means to people today aren't always the same thing. Example: I slept with him. To a lot of people, this means they had sex. It wasn't said, but it's just how it's taken. Now if we put it into context, say a two-year-old girl saying that last night she was scared, so she slept with her daddy, the word takes it's primary meaning.

    When I think of alcoholic, I think of a person with an addiction problem to alcohol. While that may not be it's primary meaning, it's a meaning that sticks in my head today.

    Alcohol is legal in the US and has caused a lot of problems. There are people that get addicted to it and do horrible things, like beat their wives. We have programs here like AA to deal with it. It is such a problem that just two letters, AA, let's the general population know what's meant. Since alcohol is such a huge addiction problem, causing so much pain and death, holic, as a suffix, can easily be understood as to mean addicted to. It just not that it's addicted to, but addicted to such degree that it's a problem. Remember, the guy that called himself a commaholic did so because he thought he was using it too much.

    It doesn't take a great stretch of the imagination to understand what's meant when holic is added. That's what makes it clear communication in the long run.

    If we go back 100 years, there wasn't such a thing as holic. Commaholic just wouldn't make sense. The only reason it makes sense now is because we can link it to alcoholic. Only because of the devastation the addiction has caused do we understand it's use so powerfully.


    Here it does make sense. Since standardizing is a democratic process, people will use what they understand the best. You have something that's clear to people, so they use it enough to make it standard. Can't you see how powerful holic is in stating being addicted to something to such a degree you're hurting yourself.

    It hasn't broken a rule. Not too long ago, holic wasn't even a slang word. It didn't have a meaning, let alone primary meaning. To me it seems like the root of the problem really is alcoholic. We don't use ic to mean addicted to for other words. We don't say, "He's a drugic." If you wanted clean English, you can't say alcoholic. Alcoholic can't be a standard word. Not only that, you'll have to regulate metaphors. The reason being is, if metaphors are used too much with one meaning, the primary meaning gets replaced by the metaphoric one. If you really want to clean it up, you need to go back when English was invented and get ride of all the unclean words. You need to go to all the sciences that used all those dirty words in the peer-review journals and have them edit it out. In fact, you may find that the making of the English language was done in an unclean fashion, hence the language needs to be abolished.

    If it's to be clear to the general public, then it must be democratic. If it's democratic, then the literal link doesn't makes new words, the understood link does. It is the understood link that communicates clearly in the long run. Why? Because the literal meaning of a word can be forgotten centuries ago.

    Certain words have power because of their history. If a white guy today told a black guy, "Hey chocolate, come over here." It's understood what chocolate means here. However, it's different than the white guy saying, "Hey nigger, come over here." Because of the history people have with a word, it gives that word certain powers.

    I wouldn't want to strip a language of it's powers. Using a word that has no previous connect with people as an absolute rule is horrible. Sometimes a word, with which people have a history with, serves as a more powerful suffix.

    I think I've clearly presented my confusion to you. So please, elaborate.
     
  23. Tall and Weird
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    Tall and Weird New Member

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    Of course, if -holic becomes the official suffix to indicate someone who is addicted to the substance or act it is attached to, we'll automatically have an exception to the rule because alcoholholic just sounds silly.

    That said, I have heard people mention that they would be addicted to sexahol if they could find where to buy it.
     
  24. Kas
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    *sigh*... Maia, I see why you keep your comments short and sweet.

    I think this is my final contribution. It's eating up more of my time than I intended.

    You know plenty of Latin. It doesn't matter if you don't recognise it as such.

    From lumen/lumos/luminarium/lucifer etc, we've created myriad vocabulary... Most people will recognise this in at least a vague sort of way. Whenever you see lumin, lum, luci... you can usually tell that the word has something to do with light. If you don't, you're not paying attention because there are dozens of light-pertaining words that use these letters. From the rest of the word you may get other hints if you're familiar with the building blocks. Mind you, I'm not an expert - far, far from it. So when I encounter a word like lucifugous, I may only know one of the building blocks. In this case, luci stands out. The rest I must obtain from context. Actually, the rest is probably made up. It's fine either way.

    Luci comes from lucifer, which means light, bright, or light-bringer. Generally most people will (or should) recognise it as 'light'. So lucifugous has something to do with 'bright light' or such.

    "It was the vampire's lucifugous nature to retire before dawn."

    My thought process: luci - light - vampires don't like it. In fact, he is hiding from it. And there's your definition. Lucifugous; to shun the light. As strange and uncommon as the word may be, the use of luci makes literal sense.

    Ok, so that was a little too obvious. Writers aren't always so considerate. But you can often figure things out on your own, from the literal meaning of familiar letter combinations and context. That is the beauty of English.

    Big fancy words are usually either pulled straight out of someone's nether region, (like certain medical terms and drug names) or made up of letter combinations or words that have literal meaning, not figurative. So yes, workaholic breaks a rule.

    As for digging through other languages to give you a better suffix, I wont't bother. Do your own searches. Surely you can allow that something relating directly to addiction can probably be obtained from somewhere. If not, then create one, if a suffix you must have... Personally, I don't even want a suffix. What's wrong with comma addict? Must we enforce laziness in the school system, just because it's popular? No wonder the educational standard is so appalling in NA.

    As for inventing a word/suffix and resulting confusion... if it's something people would use often, they'll pick it up. When people have a need to know, they learn. Benzodiazepine - you'll know what it means if it's important to you. And you'll typically recognise a new benzodiazepine for what it is based on the usual suffix (azepam). As a lifelong insomniac, I learned what 'azepam' meant before I started shaving. Diazepam, lorazepam, temazepam, nitrazepam... new suffixes are successfully introduced all the time. Anyone with a use for it will know it - eventually.

    Workaholic has loads of baggage meaning. I can just see a MADD member chewing you a new one for making light of a serious social issue. Standardised or not, it's still open to interpretation, like everything of non-literal construction. "No, no, you've got it all wrong - it's in the dictionary - it's a real word - it's not like that!!" She'll tell you where you can stick your dictionary. In fact, the more I think about it, the less funny, (if it ever was funny) and more irritating it becomes. That MADD in my head has the right of it. It's an offensive word.

    Words that make literal sense are also more likely to stick. Dictionaries often delete stupid words when the fad has passed, or something new and (hopefully) less stupid supercedes the old. I'm not sure if words can be 'unstandardised', but I would imagine so.

    This argument is all about literal vs figurative. Standardising a word like workaholic is an attempt to force the figurative into something literal, but this hamfisted approach is incompatible with the way English is normally constructed. Sometimes you just can't make a figurative word literal. The highest authority in the world can't turn the sun cold by saying so.

    Yes, I am aware that there are numerous figurative words made standard. They are unfortunate exceptions, not the rule. The more exceptions there are, the less meaningful the rules become, reducing the systematic nature of the language to endless memorisation. Tedious in the long run.
     
  25. Ghosts in Latin
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    Ghosts in Latin Senior Member

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    Saying the communicateability of word-units is based soely on their understandabilityness, I think, can be an argument for any sillyfied word.

    That's probibably why my mind has such a difficult time acceptating words like, "workaholic".
     

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