Yesterday, I finished the new draft of my latest book, currently titled In the Land Newly Risen from the Sea. My feelings about it are a mixture of happy pride, worry that it won’t be any good, relief that I’m done with it (for now), and exhaustion. Mostly exhaustion.
In any case, I’m now going to take a short break from it, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on one of the simple joys of writing: logophilia. The love of words. Not words as they are strung together to make a story, but words as things of beauty in themselves.
Here are some of my favourites, those words I love but can never find a reason to include in my actual writing.
Slubberdegullion noun, archaic
Someday I must write an historical novel set in the 18th century, just so I can use this marvellous word for ‘a slovenly or worthless person.’ Or perhaps we should bring it back as an insult – I could use it on my infant son next time he throws his breakfast on the floor. It’s one of those words which just rolls off the tongue so nicely, it seems a shame not to say it every day.
One of my father’s favourite anecdotes to tell about me is when I was 12 years old and was introduced to one of his work colleagues. Said colleague was pleased to relate that just that day he’d come across a new word: velleity. And what did we think that might mean?
12-year-old me happily informed him that a velleity is a ‘desire too slight to lead to definite action’. He didn’t seemed quite so pleased with himself after that.
Velleity is a true logophile’s word: pleasing to eye and tongue, its etymology clear and its meaning precise; and, of course, gratifyingly obscure. The opportunities to use it are rare (after all, if a desire is too slight to lead to action, is it worth recording?) but should be taken with glee.
Yep, that’s right, noun. No, it isn’t a mistake for ‘effect’ – that’s a totally different word. Having sung the praises of the archaic and the abstruse, words which are trapped in amber, it’s time to talk about the joys of language evolution. And affect (noun) is a word in the ascendant. It has long been used as a term in psychology for an observable expression of emotion, but in the last few years I’ve noticed it being used more and more, in a general context. It’s still not exactly a common word, but it seems to have found its niche: it neatly fills a gap in the language. Maybe it will fade away again – that’s how a living language works. For now, though, I like it: an unassuming word which does a specific job, and does it very well.
Finally, it’s time for a rather more vernacular example of language evolution: the rise of ‘adult’ as a verb (and similar verbed nouns like ‘brain’). Some may decry this as language devolution, although they’re probably the same kind of etiolated old fuddy-duddies who think that you shouldn’t split infinitives or use ‘prestigious’ to describe anything but conjuring tricks. Here’s what I think: verbing nouns is fun, and I like having fun with words. Sure, I probably wouldn’t use ‘adult’ as a verb in a formal context, but as previously mentioned, editing my book has left me exhausted and now I wanna just relax for a bit. Too much adulting is bad for you.