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Tag Archive | Chortle

9 Novel English neologisms

[nurd]

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The slang term nerd means an intelligent but single-minded person, obsessed with a certain hobby or pursuit, e.g. a computer nerd. But the word that has been the bane of so many elementary schoolers’ existence was actually invented by their king: none other than Dr. Seuss himself! The word first appeared in print in Seuss’ 1950 picture book, If I Ran the Zoo, though Seuss’ “nerd” is a small animal from the land of Ka-Troo, not a pale kid with glasses taped together.

Yahoo

[yah-hoo, yey-, yah-hoo]

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The origin of this word may add some unexpected irony to the well-known internet browser. Originally coined by Jonathan Swift in his 1726 novel Gulliver’s Travels, Yahoo refers to the brutish race of homo sapiens ruled by the Houyhnhnm, a noble race of speaking horses. Swift’s Yahoos display all of the vices of humanity with none of the virtues, thus it makes sense that the word has come to mean “a coarse or brutish person.” If you say “yahoo” loud enough you might be moved to experience our next neologism.

Chortle

[chawr-tl]

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Lewis Carroll coined this funny term for a gleeful chuckle in his 1872 novel, Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the novel, the word appears in a verse poem titled “The Jabberwocky,” in which Alice finds a book that can only be read using a mirror. The old man in the poem “chortles in his joy” when his son beheads the terrible monster. Today the word is widely thought to be a combination of “chuckle” and “snort.”

Quark

[kwawrk, kwahrk]

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A quark can be any group of elementary particles that combine to become a subatomic particle such a neutron or proton. In other words, quarks are some of the smallest building blocks of an atom. In 1964 the U.S. physicist Murray Gell-Mann named the particle after a word he found in James Joyce’s novel, Finnegan’s Wake. Joyce’s quotation reads, “Three quarks for Muster Mark,” with “quark” referring to the cry of the seagull.

Utopia

[yoo-toh-pee-uh]

utopia

Utopia is the title of Sir Thomas More’s whimsical and satirical book written in 1516. More envisions a perfect society situated on an island that he names Utopia. Developing the word from the Greek topos for “place,” More chose the prefix ou- or u- meaning “not” or “no.” Thus the name Utopia quite literally means no place at all. Even though More might have his reservations about the achievability of a perfect world, our next neologism might be the closest thing to a perfect sound.

Tintinnabulation

[tin-ti-nab-yuhley-shuhn]

learn English

The American poet and author Edgar Allen Poe coined this onomatopoetic word in his 1849 poem “The Bells.” The poem was published shortly after Poe’s death, and though the four sections of the piece become progressively darker as Poe describes four different types of bells, tintinnabulation characterizes the joyous sound of silver sleigh bells, foretelling “a world of merriment.” The word is derived from the Latin tinnire meaning “to ring” combined with the instrumental suffix “bulum.”

Grok

[grok]

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Do you feel like nobody groks you? Don’t worry, Robert A. Heinlein does. In his 1961 best-selling science fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, Heinlein coined the term to mean an understanding so thorough that “the observer becomes a part of the observed–to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience.” But in common usage the term means to communicate sympathetically or to “drink in” understanding. If you’re reading this slideshow off a screen, you’ll definitely grok our next neologism.

Cyberspace

[sahy-ber-speys]

syberspace

Though you might not want to build a house there, anyone with a computer has a stake in cyberspace. Coined by the science fiction writer William Gibson, cyberspace first appeared in a 1982 short story. The word combines the terms “cybernetics” (the use of mechanical and electronic systems to replace human function) and “space” (an area or realm). Together they form “cyberspace,” the realm of electronic communication or virtual reality. If you’ve ever thought “virtual reality” was a bit of an oxymoron, you might be familiar with our final neologism.

Catch-22

[kach-twen-tee-too]

catch 22

The deal sounds great, but what’s the catch?” Have you heard something like this? Then you’d better hope the catch isn’t a Catch-22. The phrase represents a frustrating situation in which one is trapped by contradictory regulations or conditions. Catch-22 is the title and central problem of Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel, and in Heller’s context the catch represents a simultaneously dangerous and idiotic military regulation that maddens the poor characters tangled in his Catch-22.
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9 Ways to Laugh


1. Chortle

[chawr-tl]

chortleThere are many different kinds of laughter. There’s the kind that leaves us clutching our bellies and gasping for air, and there’s kind that barely escapes our lips in restrained titters. The chortle, defined as “a gleeful chuckle,” falls somewhere in the middle. This term was coined by the beloved and whimsical wordsmith Lewis Carroll in his 1871 novel, Through the Looking-Glass, as a blend, or portmanteau, of the words chuckle and snort.

2. Guffaw

[guh-faw, guh-]

guffawA guffaw is a loud, unrestrained burst of laughter; as a verb, it means “to laugh in a loud and boisterous manner.” The word is of Scottish origin and is thought to be imitative of the sound of such laughter. This word entered English in the early 1700s, around the same time as the similar but short-lived gawf, which means “to laugh loudly.”

3. Boff

[bof]

boffWhen delivering a punch line, comedic performers want nothing more than to elicit a boff. This term, which means “a loud hearty laugh” in the above example, can also mean “to cause to be overcome with laughter” and “a joke or humorous line.” Boff arose in the entertainment industry in the mid-1900s, probably as a shortening of the word boffo meaning “a joke or punch line.” The similar-sounding Italian word buffo translates to “funny; comical” and shares a root with the term buffoon.

4.Titter

[tit-er]

titterFar from a belly laugh or a hearty guffaw, a titter is a nervous or self-conscious laugh. To titter is “to laugh in a restrained, self-conscious, or affected way as from nervousness or in ill-suppressed amusement.” The origin of this word is unclear, but etymologists point to the Swedish term tittra meaning “to giggle,” as well as the word tittle meaning “to whisper” or, more specifically “to tell on or whisper gossip” as possible linguistic ancestors.

5.Giggle

[giguhl]

giggleBefore English speakers were tittering, they were giggling. A giggle is “a silly spasmodic laugh, especially with short, repeated gasps and titters, as from juvenile or ill-concealed amusement or nervous embarrassment.” The word is thought to be imitative in origin, echoing the sound of such laughter. Be careful not to confuse a case of the giggles with a case of the giggs; the latter has been used to describe a mouth disease in horses.

6. Yuk

[yuhk]

yukThe origins of the word yuk, as in “The audience really yukked it up at the movie,” are a bit of a mystery. The similar-sounding yock, theater slang for “a laugh,” appeared in the US in the late 1930s. The comedic yuk, sometimes spelled yuck, meaning “to laugh or joke” appeared in the 1960s, right around the time that English speakers began using it as an exclamation of disgust.

7. Snicker

[snik-er]

snickerThe word snicker, meaning “to laugh in a half-suppressed, indecorous or disrespectful manner,” has been around since the late 1600s. Like many words on this list, this one is thought to be imitative of the sound of laughter. It is one of several words beginning with s used to refer to laughter more mocking and suppressed in nature than gleeful and boisterous; others include snirtle, snigger, and sneer.

8. Heehaw

[hee-haw]

heehawIf the words we use to describe laughter are any indication, it would seem that a good episode of laughter reduces us to our animal natures, leaving us howling, snorting, and roaring. The term heehaw entered English in the early 1800s as a term for the loud braying sound a donkey makes and shortly thereafter picked up the sense of “a loud laugh reminiscent of a neighing horse.”

9. Cachinnate

[kakuh-neyt]

cachinnateIf you (or someone you know) consistently turns heads with your stentorian laughter, you may be a cachinnator. To cachinnate is “to laugh loudly or immoderately.” The term is thought to be imitative in origin, and can be traced to the Latin cachinnāre. The similar-sounding cackle, meaning “to laugh in a shrill, broken manner” is etymologically unrelated to cachinnate. It first entered English as a word for the sound a hen or goose makes, later picking up a sense of “to laugh in a shrill, broken manner.”

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