Whenever something bleep worthy happens, my friend Amber rips her best expletive. Like when some stupid head pulls out in front of her, she slams on the brakes and yells, “Shock-a-zulu!” Or when her keys lose themselves in her gigundo purse, she might let out a whiny “Oh, shock-a-zulu.”
Yep. Shock-a-zulu. It’s the cutesy word she coined so she doesn’t drop the S-bomb. "Fudgesicles!" “Son of a nutcracker!” We all have psuedo curse words. Or at least many of us did when we were little, right?
But seriously, people coin new words and expressions all the time. How else do we come up with new permanent Webster entries like phat or frenemy. How else would we know to get up at three a.m. and vulture the Target lot on Black Friday? Or what if you wanted to manify your den. Or sport a tramp stamp?
Maybe I just need to chillax with all this wordage.
But how can I? I’m an eighties girl. Things back then were gnarly and totally tubular. We had, like, this wicked way of talking about everything, dude.
Oh wait—that’s like every generation.
And hailing from the big hair era, I also grew up with all the cool sci-fi shows. One of my faves—Battle Star Galactica. Why?
a) I was a Star Wars geek and Star Trek did NOTHING for me
b) Dirk Benedict—need I say more
c) People said the coolest things, like Frak that. Or that's a bunch of felder carb!
Writers of science fiction and fantasy must be in neologism heaven (PS—neologism’s that fancy-schmancy word for “coining” new words). World building—even in reality-based fantasy—can involve evolving fantabulous names for people, creatures… even games (Quidditch anyone?)
I’ve been reading post-apocalyptic YA lately and I love, love, love how the authors breathe new life into mainstream vocabulary. The Uglies series—not missing on this at all. It’s totally bubbly that characters ping instead of text and call. Or get all kinds of cool surge to make their eyes totally pretty.
Coining new words in novels can be amazeballs fun. You could pen a whole book based on a neologism (use a Frindle much?) Or create an entire song that’s just supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
And as I write novels for young adults, I find new words on Urban Dictionary all the time. I frequent the site probably more than I should. At times it’s nauseating, but mostly it’s entertaining. And quite the resource. I mean, now I can give one of my characters a dungeon tan. Or jet one my protag’s besties into hiberdating when she meets the love of her life—again. Shoot. How else would I myself know that I currently suffer from tanorexia?(blaming it on my ubiquitous midlife crisis—hee)
As a young adult writer with a most quirky voice, I don’t purposely set out to coin new words, but I find it happens. Mostly they’re combos of already existing words like gihugic or fabulicious. Others I think I made up and then realize they’re already in the dictionary. Wordage is a word? Really? Or I steal from my students. Teens have a whole vocab of their own. Chill with your boo lately?
And sometimes I enjoy using the same words my kids do. My characters beast a test or are totally boss at Black Ops. Yeah. It’s cool.
In my latest WIP, one of my favorite characters is a three hundred pound chunk of muscle. His brain is stuck in his pants, his antics transport him back to the sixth grade on a daily basis, leaving me to dub him The Incredible Hormone. But as one-dimensional as I may have just painted him, he’s really most endearing. And he says the stupidest, corniest things—verbage so dumb, it’s snort-worthy. Kinda like Marty the Zebra.
And I find that when I'm quirky or corny, the new lingo just seems to pop onto the page. And it's fun! Writing in the voice of a snarky protag or crafting dialogue for my "Incredible Hormone" - it's a good time. And if I happen to invent a fun new word along the way - bonus.
Now I don’t write sci-fi or fantasy, but in my books, shock-a-zulu happens and it’s fun finding a way to describe it that’s not totally cliché.
And who knows? Perhaps someday Shock-a-zulu will garner Webster status. Or maybe one of my neologisms.
And that, my friends, would send my bliss-o-meter off the chizzang.