Wordwatching by Alex Horne

It was a fun book with a fun concept (lover of words with a sense of humour wants to get his own made-up words into the dictionary, thus obtaining the ultimate nerdy immortality) and I would recommend it to a friend.
It’s strange that there would be “spoilers” in a humourous memoir like this, but you may not want to read any further if you like to be surprised. Otherwise, hit the jump for more.

My main criticisms are that I felt lied to a number of times in the book (he’d assert something as fact and then later admit that it was made up) and that the whole thing seemed too forced. I love making up words as well, but the words he made up served no other purpose than getting into the dictionary. Usually when a word is created, it’s because someone felt the need to express something for which they could find no satisfying word in existence, and when it catches on it’s because other people heard it and loved it and wanted to use it too. The words Alex Horne created were meant to trick people into thinking they’d always been around. Did he need another slang word for money? No, he created one precisely because there are so many words like it already in use, he thought it’d be easy to slip one in.

The only one of his neologisms that has a unique definition is “pratdigger” (a person who acts as a magnet for annoying people and tends to bring loads of them to parties–“I like Charlene, she seems nice, but those friends of hers are all dicks.” “Yeah, she’s a bit of a pratdigger.”) except that it’s not his word! It’s an 18th century word meaning “pickpocket” (a meaning I believe should be revived). I think his most successful words are “wordwatching” and “verbal gardening,” neither of which he mentions as intentional neologisms. Perhaps they weren’t his?

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