“Words, words, words”, as the Danish Prince so pithily put it before tearing the Lord Polonius off yet another strip. Words are our baggage, our currency and our legacy. The English language is stuffed with words like some sort of alphabetised Chesterfield sofa, while other tongues get by with a narrow Chaise Longue or spindly Mies van der Rohe chair to settle back on when they want things to make sense. Is it any wonder the world rushes to learn English, considering how many words we have to choose from? Thank goodness the English no longer own their own language or who knows how we might conspire to ruin it. Enough! I hear you cry. Break off this interminable preamble and get to the point. In which case I will. It has not escaped my notice that this is the time of year when The Dictionary Industry of the English Speaking World likes to corral an annual crop (is it possible to corral a crop? What would work better? Harvest a herd? Wrangle a regiment?) of neologisms. Now, there’s a word that must have sent ruddy-faced Colonels to their blotters to dash off a flamer to The Times. Why the devil do we need a word for new words? Piffle! Yours, Apoplectic of Andover (Mrs).
Any new words appearing in this week’s Workshop were handled in the traditional and time-honoured way; humanely netted, delicately stunned, they were then pinned to a green baize board alongside a small hand-written paper label. Daphne Gloag does not always approve of neologisms but is always inventive in her use of words, as in this evening’s Tintorreto-inspired examination of Christmas Journeys. David Hovatter was not one to discourage new words as he traced the journey from fish hook to sushi. Jagdish applied a new meaning or two to old words as he told us about a potted plant at prayer. Pat Francis played with words and form as she contrasted two views of fate. Alan Chambers returned us to fish, lines and nets with another contrast- this time of two farms in a sea Loch. Danuta Sotnik-Kondyck is embracing the English language with a poem about wolves she translated from a piece she originally composed in her native Polish. Peter Francis chose some disturbing words for his imagined evidence to a truth and reconciliation commission. John Hurley rendered extraordinary ideas to paper as he imagined an Irish President’s introduction to a President Elect. Nick Barth brought us a stranded astronaut, hearing words from the ether. Martin Choules has not got anything to say, but he chose some great words to say it. Finally, Ariadne Kazantzis pictured an alien learning English in order to teach young Anthony a few things about our planet.
I am sure you will be familiar with the more headline-grabbing neologisms of 2016. Brexit has followed the increasingly unfamiliar Grexit and foreshadows the hypothetically water-logged Nexit. The alt-right have caused many people to become trumpatised following a momentous event of some moment over the pond. The OED now recognises moobs, whether or not they are scrumdiddlyumptious. Slacktivism is joining clicktivism in replacing activism, or the messy and exhausting process of painting banners and catching agoraphobia in the company of hordes of unruly strangers. The now over-familiar mamil is being supplanted by the much more attractive spandexual, often on individuals who are beardtastic.
Which rampant hashtaggery brings me to the word which The Pitshanger Poets will strive to bring to popular usage in 2017, if only because we strongly advocate its application in this world of chronocide (the killing of time), via wexting (walking while texting) and linkulitus (the habitual sending of web links to others). The word is unliterate, meaning a person who knows how to read but staunchly refuses to do so.
If you have been on this occasion, thank you for doing so.