Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sprinkle your vocabulary with 'happicles'

From Emory Report

The best way to launch a new word is to pretend that it isn’t new and just start using it, says Mikhail Epstein, an Emory professor of cultural theory and Russian literature.

For example, he describes asking his colleagues out for a bite. “Sometimes they say, ‘I’m busy for lunch, I’m busy for dinner.’ I say, ‘Well, let’s do a dunch together.’ It is intuitively clear to them what it means.”

Epstein recently published “PreDictionary: An Exploration of Blank Spaces in Language.”

“Predictionary means a draft, a germ of a dictionary,” he says. And it refers to a collection of predictions about new words that he hopes will emerge from the book to fill in gaps of meaning.

Happiness, for instance, is such a high-pressure word, referring to a largely unsustainable state.

Epstein gives us “happicle,” or the smallest unit of happiness. “Like photons, happicles have zero mass at rest,” he writes. “They lack the stable inertial mass that we identify with happiness. Happicles flash and go out in passing. They may be as transitory as a fragrance in the air, or a falling leaf, or the glance of a passerby on the street.”

Another gem is “inventure,” which he defines as “an adventure of mind, creative and engaging intellectual action.”

We hope you enjoyed this posticle. May your day be charged with happicles and free of meetniks, people who adore holding meetings that suck the inventure right out of you.

Photos: iStockphoto.com.

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How we learn language

1 comment:

  1. Great post, reminds me of Jabberwocky!
    Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
    All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

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