When There Aren’t Enough Words
When I was ten years old, one of my favourite teachers uncovered my secret in front of the whole class. Even though it was not very important, I was mortified. She, on the other hand, thought it was adorable. I can’t blame her, after all she had found it lying on the floor baring itself to anyone who would care to look at it. It was a 3 x 5 cm, 6-page “book” I had made out of scrap paper. On the front, it had the words “My Dicsionery” carefully printed out. The irony of the incorrect spelling doesn’t go amiss on me. I was a terrible speller – an infliction which has plagued, but not stopped me, my whole life. On the inside, equally carefully penned, were never-before-seen English words.
- Chamcha – Pronownsed with a hard “G” like in the Afrikaans “goeie more” (good morning) Meaning: the sound that you make when you bite into a fresh vegitable or fruit for the first time.
- Orbit – Pronownsed like it is spelt Meaning: pimple on a face.
- Chucumberg – Pronownse the “ch” like chook-chook train. Meaning: a big fat juicy gerkin.
- Chaaff-chaaff – Pronownse the “ch” like chook-chook train. Meaning: pretend (but it is not to be used for when a person tells a big fat ly).
The new words lay on the tiny page in a mishmash of ideas. They were not in alphabetical order, and for some reason words that began with ‘ch’ had a larger representation.
I don’t remember what I was thinking when I started the collection of made-up words, but I do remember wanting the floor to open up and swallow me when in an excited voice my teacher demanded to know, ‘Who’s booklet is this? And where do the words come from?’ The class giggled as she read out each word I had made up. To my astonishment, I found my hand had risen without permission from my brain.
‘Mine. They are my words. It is my book,’ I confessed to the hilarity of the class. The “dictionary”, like many other things, once started remained unfinished, but words – made up or not – have always fascinated me. I like the way that words can have different meanings for some people. My favourite word is “serendipity”- a happy and fortunate surprise. I like “moist” too. It is a word, that irrationally, many people don’t like. To me, it is a wonderfully descriptive word that makes me think of black forest cake.
Does this word make my bum look fat?
Lately, I’ve been interested in the behaviour and perception of words. Depending on where and when you grew up, the meaning of words change. “Random” used to mean that something was arbitrary, these days it is used to describe a person who has done something that is questionable or even irritating.
‘Some random left his food just lying there.’
‘A random came and asked me the way to get to the station.’ That kind of thing. At first, it took some getting used to, but before I knew it, I too was inserting the word into my speech as a portrayal of the person I was talking about. I sometimes wondered if the word ‘kind’ didn’t exist, would people know how to be gentle with each other. Without the word ‘domination’ would people try to rule each other? If the word stupid, wasn’t used so much, would we feel so inept all the time? These days there are so many judgements of one another. You can’t move a centimetre without someone out there throwing their ‘words of wisdom’ at you. And so, I am going back to my beginning. I am looking for sofenating words. I want to gather them and become the descriptions to those words. Maybe start a movement or something.
Definition according to My Dicsionery by Xanti Bootcov (Age 10): Sofenating – Pronownsed sofen and then ate – ing. Meaning: looking for a way to be kind and suporrtive. To sofen someones hurt feelings. To be cudly