‘Ineptnorant’ and other neologifications

Ralph Keyes has an enjoyable essay on neologisms at the American Scholar, analysing the factors in their success or failure and sharing some facts surprising to me, such as that Thomas Jefferson coined indescribable and neologize, and that negawatt began life as a typo – showing how happenstance and error are underacknowledged sources of new words.

He says one reason fanciful coinages catch on is that their inventors think them “so absurd that no one will adopt them, little realizing that this is just the type of neologism we covet”. Duly encouraged, I set to work when recently asked if there’s an adjective for when someone “can’t do [something,] therefore [doesn’t] understand when it’s done properly and when it’s not”.

No precise word came to mind,* but after a moment’s consideration I suggested ineptnorant (adj.), blending inept and ignorant – that is, someone both inept and ignorant of their ineptness. The related noun and adverb are ineptnorance and ineptnorantly. Ineptnorant is almost 100% unlikely to spread, but if a few people adopt it then it may enjoy brief existence as a cult word.

Twitter, though good for this kind of whimsy, is almost too ephemeral: I tweet some neologisms offhandedly then forget all about them. (That may be just as well, or I’d be turning more of them into T-shirts.) But here’s a selection I saved, serving more as idle jokes than practical contributions to the vocabulary:

I’ve also coined linguisticky words with potential niche utility: idioslang, the slang used by a particular person; portmonsteau, a monster portmanteau word like Sharktopus or Dinocroc, first suggested here; and cinelect, the idiosyncratic language used in a film (from a chat with James Callan and Ben Zimmer after my post on films of linguistic interest).

Of course, it’s always a pleasure when someone else starts using your made-up words:


Granted, neologificate has been independently neologificated already. So it goes. And now it’s your turn: please share your newbrained lexicontraptions or other synapsequences in a comment!

[previous posts on neologisms]


* The question did suggest the Dunning–Kruger effect, whereby someone incompetent judges their level of competence incompetently. I think I first came across this in Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science.


17 Responses to ‘Ineptnorant’ and other neologifications

  1. Natalie says:

    Such words are certainly amuseful!

  2. Helen says:

    Stan, your post reminded me of my 2 year old granddaughter – sometimes out of the mouths of babes – she struggled with a task recently and giving up, said “I can’t able”. Ineptnorance on her part.

  3. Stan says:

    Natalie: They posilutively can be!

    Helen: I love that, and might adopt it for personal use.

  4. Roger says:

    I saw a film about soil yestreen, Symphony of the Soil. May I say it was rhapsodic, as someone once said of Satyajit Ray’s trilogy.
    In Symphony of the Soil, a bunch of earthy words, presumably old but new to me appeared on screen, words such as mollisol, alfisol, inceptisol, ultisol, and so on, all terms for the very many types of soil, some of which conveyed their meaning through their elements, and others that called for wiki-help. That unearthed articles about soil classification, which showed that when you need a new word or a thousand for something new beneath your feet or in front of your nose, you just have to coin away, ad hoc, ad lib, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
    And there’s not just one classification for soils. Different countries may name their soils differently, even within the English-speaking countries, Australia, U.S., Canada — naturally, since they don’t necessarily have identical soils. People tend to coin in other settings too, as when they study a second language, and are cautioned with the harrumph that “there is no such word.”
    Too bad there isn’t. Or rather, “Is that so? Well, there is now.”

  5. Roger says:

    Spanish “tirolesa” — translates what? Ans: ziplining.
    (I’d been looking for that a long time, found it courtesy of Wiki.)
    The root is from Tyrol, the Alpine region, so presumably Austrian in origin. Also Sp. “tirolina”, from the French “tyrolienne”,
    though the Austrians themselves call it Seilrutsche.
    Aren’t they typical of how people coin for whatever’s new that comes up: see it, name it.

  6. dcreag says:

    Inventing words just because you like how they sound is completely astribilous.

    I find this one somewhat ironic because I’m struggling with how to pronounce astribilous. Is the emphasis on the second or third syllable?

  7. Roger says:

    Humans don’t just coin words, they coin whole languages too,
    lots of them, sometimes for fun, sometimes as solutions to the human condition. But they don’t sell at the U.N.

  8. Stan says:

    Roger: Those soil-related words are lovely. Without the context you supplied, I would have guessed they had to do with the sun. Entire language invention is a whole other level of linguafactural involvement – one I haven’t tried, though I have written about conlangs a few times.

    dcreag: The second. It’s the sort of word that might lose its initial letter if it survived long enough.

    John: The connotations of bilious are one reason I didn’t insert another “i”.

  9. Mise says:

    A T-shirtism: an aphorism that one can read and take in at a brief glance as the wearer walks by

  10. Stan says:

    dcreag: Good question. Let’s wait and see.

    Mise: That works well. You’d almost guess the meaning right away.

  11. […] I have neologisms on the brain, I got to thinking of one coined by Robert Anton Wilson in his book The New Inquisition, as far as […]

  12. […] ‘Ineptnorant’ and other neologifications […]

  13. […] any of my whimsical coinages to catch on, but there’s hope yet for portmonsteau, ineptnorant, apostrophantom and the gang. […]

  14. […] don’t always like new words, including my own (and I make them up constantly, on a whim), but in principle I’ll defend even ‘unnecessary’ […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: