Making up Words

Saving English One Word At A Time.

An English tutoring column by Ralph Schatzki who would like you to join him in the task of saving the language, step-by-step, word-by-word, one person at a time.

We all make up words from time to time. They add color to the language, and this is not at all a bad thing. But some words come about based on a misunderstanding.

Made-Up Words are Fun!

We all make up words from time to time. "Guesstimate," and "ginormous," for example, are two such words that add color to the language, and this is not at all a bad thing. Never mind that they have no special meanings but are simply conglomerations of two already existing words that have more or less the same meanings. They're fun! The people who coined them did so deliberately, and I'm sure they're quite pleased their creations have taken life in the language.

Other Words that Come to Life

Other words "come to life" more or less by accident. These are words used under the assumption that they are already proper words in the language, when in fact they are not. On rare occasion these, too, take on a happy, productive existence, but more often than not they are just embarassing. It seems they often come about based on a misunderstanding.

Please Do Not Do This!

One of the worst is the following:

If something is "long," it has "length." If it is "wide," it has "width."

So, if it is "high" it has........"heighth!"

[Imagine, here, the loud sound of the most obnoxious television game show buzzer you can imagine]


It has "height." Just because there is an imagined "pattern" of "th" endings doesn't mean it continues. There is no such word in the language as "heighth," at least not yet.

Say It With A Smile

I'm sure you can think of other words like this, where an apparent pattern doesn't continue, yet people speak as if it does. But don't attack. Don't even correct. Just repeat, using the correct word:

"Ma'am, what is your son's heighth?"

"I believe his height is five feet 8 inches."

And say it with a smile.

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About Column Contributor

Ralph Schatzki

A proofreader, editor, author, math teacher and tutor, professional opera singer, ex-lawyer (by his own choice), sports fan, husband and father. He has lived on both American coasts, as well as in the southwest and midwest, and overseas in Thailand for more than thirteen years. He loves to read, write and perform, to watch sports, and to spend time with his family.
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