Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Hidden History of Coined Words (Ralph Keyes)

Examples of coined words include "blog", "quark", and "buttonhole"; all of which were created either in jest or through misprints (in the case of "quark"). Those who are responsible for coining some of English’s more unique words come from diverse backgrounds - a humorist, a botanist, a cartoonist, and even politicians have all contributed words that have had staying power to our discourse over centuries.

Ralph Keyes’s The Hidden History of Coined Words dives head-first into a treasure trove of word origins, outlining in great detail how terms came into existence, whether those terms had staying power or were mere fads, and how they may have evolved over the years. Did you know that "hipster" is not a recent word invention, despite the current term identifying many craft beer aficionados and fans of indie rock? Or that "spread’s" meaning today is not necessarily the same as it was in an earlier time? Keyes closes with a tutorial on how to coin words and what letters coined words should start with. He also expresses hope that a number of expressions that we struggle with can find better meaning.

The Hidden History of Coined Words an enjoyable book, one well-suited for linguists and wordsmiths who are curious to gain further insight into ever-evolving language.