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“Coronapocalypse” and “Infodemic”: WHAT NEW WORD OR PHRASE CAN YOU CREATE TO CAPTURE WHAT YOU NOW SEE AND FEEL?

Ours is an age of such disruption, volatility and hype that many current nouns, verbs and adjectives can seem inadequate in expressing what we see and feel. While word choice may seem trivial in light of the times, increasingly science proves they matter. A lot.   

Of course, what we think influences what we say and do. But as Robert Sapolsky, the heralded Stanford Professor of Biology and Neurology explains (Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2015):  Less obvious is the converse, namely, the possibility that the language we speak – or our chosen words – shape, facilitate or constrain thinking. And behaviors. He cites research by Kiju Jnug of the University of Illinois, which showed that hurricanes named for males were subconsciously expected to have higher winds and be more severe than those named for females. As a result, people took more precautions from male named hurricanes and as a result, and mortality rates were less.

Behavioral economics (a decades-long area of my research and professional practice applied to marketing) also teaches us how words and phrases can be instructive, preventative and, because of their influence, predictive. If asked to play a game called “The Wall Street Game,” evidently people collaborate and cooperate far less than if the same game is instead called “The Community Game.”  If given the choice between “saving $100” or “not losing $100” (essentially the same thing), people are more moved by the latter. Irrationally, but predictably so, people value something more if they think they’re going to lose it. 

Choice of words has also been proven to shape moral judgements. The power of framing to fuel perceptions and preference is also something we each prove every day. After all, which would you choose on a menu: The Slimehead? Or the Orange Roughy? (Same thing, only the former was “rebranded” to be more appealing.) 

But even without scientific proof, for thousands of years it’s been understood that words have the power to lead, persuade, inspire, prejudice, suppress and impress. This knowledge has fueled preachers, attorneys, ad agencies, political candidates, employers, recruiters, anyone dating another, and every parent working to raise a child. 

It’s time this same knowledge fueled you to create a new word or phrase.  

With all that is shutting down right now (schools, sporting events, conferences, fortunes…) we’re all searching for words to express what we’re feeling and observing. Andwith the massive efforts to social distance right now along with not having to commute into work, perhaps you (yes, you) could find some time to invent a word, someday receiving credit for it in a dictionary of word origins. What you create could very well help others express what they’re currently without words to say.  As the second part of this article illustrates, whether a serious contribution or one that provides much needed laughter, what you come up with could be a real gift to many. 

Already, current events are inspiring new-to-the-world terms: Would you prefer to suffer a mere pandemic or a “Coronapocalypse?” Right now they’re the same thing. And whichever term you choose to use, this week we’ve all experienced that they bring with them an “Infodemic.” 

I was thinking of coining the term “bluedemic” to convey the melancholy commensurate with the spread of frightening economic projections. But as it turns out, the word is already taken – applied to something else entirelydemonstrating how these days one should always do a good search before the launch of anything presumed new.

This is your chance to be a  “wordnovatrice “or “wordnovatuer”! (Entymology: Marsha Lindsay 2020, wordsmithing in the time of COVID-19.) Whether you embrace my newly invented terms or not, they demonstrate a hack that many a copywriter turns to when challenged to name a new product, ingredient or company. It’s this: given that so many “words” are already taken, borrow from the French! (But be prepared for the fact they raided Latin and Greek.)

If you think about it, every single word used anywhere in the world is only in use because it was first made up by someone. Take the word “neologism.” That’s a noun coined in 1772 by someone in France to mean “the practice of innovation in language.” It is derived from the Greek “logos,” which someone paired with the suffix “-ism” to mean “new word or expression.” You can do this, too! And if you do it well, maybe you can make a fortune like Dr. Seuss. His forte? Creating what one “neologian” termed “stunt words,” those created to attract attention or for special effect. You may not often include Seuss-ism’s in your vocabulary, but he had a real gift: Just from the sound of the words he coined you intuitively know what they mean: Murky-mooshy. Gluppity glup. Grinch. 

This illustrates that the best new words and phrases provide insight on the very thing they name or describe. 

A new-to-the-world insight almost always calls for a new word or phrase as a “handle” for it. 

And if, in these challenging times, you’re grasping for a way to express what you now see or feel, it’s likely because you have an insight forming just on the edge of your consciousness. If you can’t express it with existing words, then try to express it with a sound, a stunt word, something you make up from scratch.

If it turns out that people identify with what you’re trying to convey, or just find saying the word fun (Coronapolcalypse), you might just find yourself trending on social media. Why, hashtags will honor you! (Hashtag. Noun. From “hash,” the British word for the symbol #, also referred to as the “pound sign” or  “octothorpe,” abbreviated from 14th Century Latin term for “pound weight.) Your creation could even be entered into the Urban Dictionary, a crowdsourced online dictionary the mission of which is to “define today’s world by listing popular slang words and phrases.” (Slang. Noun. Mid-18th Century origin unknown. A type of language that consists of words and phrases that are regarded as very informal.)

Hmm.There it is again–the power of a word to influence. If you thought I was encouraging you to create “slang” would you read any further? Probably not. So please forget I even said it. 

Instead, and in all seriosity, (ha, you thought I made that word up, but it can be traced back to a poet in the early 16th century), here is a short but helpful “how-to” to wordcraft what’s in your gut and on your mind. It’s illustrated with examples of new creations that will make you laugh, and some important “insightment” to boot.

Ours is an age of such disruption, volatility and hype that many current nouns, verbs and adjectives can seem inadequate in expressing what we see and feel. While word choice may seem trivial in light of the times, increasingly science proves they matter. A lot.

Of course, what we think influences what we say and do. But as Robert Sapolsky, the heralded Stanford Professor of Biology and Neurology explains (Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2015): Less obvious is the converse, namely, the possibility that the language we speak – or our chosen words – shape, facilitate or constrain thinking. And behaviors. He cites research by Kiju Jnug of the University of Illinois, which showed that hurricanes named for males were subconsciously expected to have higher winds and be more severe than those named for females. As a result, people took more precautions from male named hurricanes and as a result, and mortality rates were less.

Behavioral economics (a decades-long area of my research and professional practice applied to marketing) also teaches us how words and phrases can be instructive, preventative and, because of their influence, predictive. If asked to play a game called “The Wall Street Game,” evidently people collaborate and cooperate far less than if the same game is instead called “The Community Game.” If given the choice between “saving $100” or “not losing $100” (essentially the same thing), people are more moved by the latter. Irrationally, but predictably so, people value something more if they think they’re going to lose it.

Choice of words has also been proven to shape moral judgements. The power of framing to fuel perceptions and preference is also something we each prove every day. After all, which would you choose on a menu: The Slimehead? Or the Orange Roughy? (Same thing, only the former was “rebranded” to be more appealing.)

But even without scientific proof, for thousands of years it’s been understood that words have the power to lead, persuade, inspire, prejudice, suppress and impress. This knowledge has fueled preachers, attorneys, ad agencies, political candidates, employers, recruiters, anyone dating another, and every parent working to raise a child.

It’s time this same knowledge fueled you to create a new word or phrase.

With all that is shutting down right now (schools, sporting events, conferences, fortunes…) we’re all searching for words to express what we’re feeling and observing. And with the massive efforts to social distance right now along with not having to commute into work, perhaps you (yes, you) could find some time to invent a word, someday receiving credit for it in a dictionary of word origins. What you create could very well help others express what they’re currently without words to say. As the second part of this article illustrates, whether a serious contribution or one that provides much needed laughter, what you come up with could be a real gift to many.

Already, current events are inspiring new-to-the-world terms: Would you prefer to suffer a mere pandemic or a “Coronapocalypse?” Right now they’re the same thing. And whichever term you choose to use, this week we’ve all experienced that they bring with them an “Infodemic.”
I was thinking of coining the term “bluedemic” to convey the melancholy commensurate with the spread of frightening economic projections. But as it turns out, the word is already taken – applied to something else entirely – demonstrating how these days one should always do a good search before the launch of anything presumed new.

This is your chance to be a “wordnovatrice “or “wordnovatuer”! (Entymology: Marsha Lindsay 2020, wordsmithing in the time of COVID-19.) Whether you embrace my newly invented terms or not, they demonstrate a hack that many a copywriter turns to when challenged to name a new product, ingredient or company. It’s this: given that so many “words” are already taken, borrow from the French! (But be prepared for the fact they raided Latin and Greek.)

If you think about it, every single word used anywhere in the world is only in use because it was first made up by someone. Take the word “neologism.” That’s a noun coined in 1772 by someone in France to mean “the practice of innovation in language.” It is derived from the Greek “logos,” which someone paired with the suffix “-ism” to mean “new word or expression.” You can do this, too! And if you do it well, maybe you can make a fortune like Dr. Seuss. His forte? Creating what one “neologian” termed “stunt words,” those created to attract attention or for special effect. You may not often include Seuss-ism’s in your vocabulary, but he had a real gift: Just from the sound of the words he coined you intuitively know what they mean: Murky-mooshy. Gluppity glup. Grinch.

This illustrates that the best new words and phrases provide insight on the very thing they name or describe.

A new-to-the-world insight almost always calls for a new word or phrase as a “handle” for it.

And if, in these challenging times, you’re grasping for a way to express what you now see or feel, it’s likely because you have an insight forming just on the edge of your consciousness. If you can’t express it with existing words, then try to express it with a sound, a stunt word, something you make up from scratch.

If it turns out that people identify with what you’re trying to convey, or just find saying the word fun (Coronapolcalypse), you might just find yourself trending on social media. Why, hashtags will honor you! (Hashtag. Noun. From “hash,” the British word for the symbol #, also referred to as the “pound sign” or “octothorpe,” abbreviated from 14th Century Latin term for “pound weight.) Your creation could even be entered into the Urban Dictionary, a crowdsourced online dictionary the mission of which is to “define today’s world by listing popular slang words and phrases.” (Slang. Noun. Mid-18th Century origin unknown. A type of language that consists of words and phrases that are regarded as very informal.)

Hmm. There it is again–the power of a word to influence. If you thought I was encouraging you to create “slang” would you read any further? Probably not. So please forget I even said it.

Instead, and in all seriosity, (ha, you thought I made that word up, but it can be traced back to a poet in the early 16th century), here is a short but helpful “how-to” to wordcraft what’s in your gut and on your mind. It’s illustrated with examples of new creations that will make you laugh, and some important “insightment” to boot.

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