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!
* 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.