Discuss word origins and meanings.
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Post by Archived Topic » Wed Oct 27, 2004 8:39 am

(note: This was in response to the question of what qualifies to be a NEOLIGISM asked in the posting beaten all ends up).

Dale, In answer to your question:
<“Then do you think the expression would qualify as a neologism?”>
The Oxford English Dictionary defines NEOLOGISM as follows:
<“A word or phrase which is new to the language; one which is newly coined.”>

What is to be considered NEW is left up to the discretion of the reader. The other thing that is left up to the discretion of the reader, or compiler in your case, is what words and phrases are worthy of inclusion in a list of such items. The dictionaries offer no guidance on this and so it is entirely arbitrary. The journal American Speech, for example, originally included words in this category that were new in an absolute sense – words that had come into use within a year or two before their documentation in their ‘Among the New Words’ column. Of course, it is often difficult to be sure of when a word was actually first formed, and some words have a long underground existence before they are reported, so the journal eventually adopted the following operational definition of NEW:
<“A word is ‘new’ if it (or a particular use of it) does not appear in general dictionaries at the time it is included in the column [['Among the New Words’ in American Speech]]
American Speech next proceeded to list the seven general dictionaries that they were using and their years of publication to nail down precisely what they were looking at. Five of the dictionaries were four or less years old, one was eight and one was thirty. They also listed British Dictionaries to be consulted for British neologisms. And they gave a list of dictionaries of new words, the appearance in which, would immediately disqualify a word or phrase as a prospective neologism.

The next question is how do they decide if a new word is worthy, aside from newness, of being included in their list. Their list is compiled by a contributors who are all members of the American Dialect Society New Words Committee who gather citations from newspapers, magazines, books, oral transcripts, etc. If in the judgment of the committee the word or phrase has made enough appearances in respectable sources and looks like it is beginning to be accepted in the public’s collective consciousness it makes the list.

Dale, since you are the compiler of your own list, the committee is YOU, and you must decide what the criteria are for inclusion – not anyone else. You said something about a 30-year window for your neologisms, and that’s fine if that’s what you decide – just state that in your introduction. And the question of worthiness of inclusion is also your decision. If you cannot find the word used in any major newspapers, magazines, books, or on television, you may decide that it should not be included. On the other hand, you might want to say that if it has more than x-thousand Google hits it is worthy, even if it never showed up in any major publication. This is something you are going to have to work out for yourself and clearly state so that folks know how you decided on what you have included.

So, no one but you can determine what “qualifies as a neologism” – it will or wont qualify depending on your choices of criteria. However, since BEATEN ALL HANDS UP dates from at least 1921, it would hardly qualify as a neologism in your book, but it might have if only you had published about 50 years ago! (<:)

Ken – September 11, 2005
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