What is Wordability?

There is no such word as Wordability. But then again, there is. Because I’ve just used it. So let’s start again.

Wordability is the ability of a language to create and assimilate new words. English is particularly adept in this regard. English has great wordability. And that is the subject of this blog.

Of course, I made that definition up. But when I was toying with blog titles, Wordability emerged as a currently non-existent word which nonetheless sounded like it should exist. Moreover, it felt like it aptly summarised what I was trying to get across. And that is that we should celebrate the English language’s remarkable ability to create new words. It skilfully adds prefixes and suffixes to existing words, it borrows with reckless abandon from other languages, and it brutally ascribes new shades of meaning to old words. And myriad other things as well.

In some ways, I am an unlikely champion of the ever-changing nature of language. I am linguistically pedantic by nature, and can rant with the best of them over an error or usage which I find aurally offensive. But as a post-graduate linguist, I learned to acknowledge that language is defined by its users, not by books, and that it changes all the time according to what speakers are doing. I am both a pedant and a non-pedant by turns. If only there were a word for someone who can straddle both states simultaneously. Bi-pedant? Schizopedant? Pedant-on-the-Fence? All suggestions welcome.

If you search for wordability, you won’t find it in any official dictionary, so it can’t currently be added to the more than one million words in English that have been identified by the Global Language Monitor. It does appear in the online Urban Dictionary, which defines it as “being able to create a new word and having the skill to place it in casual conversation, without anyone else noticing that it’s not really a word.”

When I found that definition, I almost ruled out Wordability as my title. But The Urban Dictionary is not an official arbiter. It is an admittedly wonderful collection of words and usages contributed by online users around the world. But it has no actual jurisdiction if I wanted to choose a different meaning. So that’s what I did.

I did briefly toy with alternatives. Wordalicious? Too much like a description of cake. Wordaging? Too much like a definition of some depraved sexual activity. New Words in the English Language? Too much like something that would simply make you go to sleep. So Wordability it was.

What did surprise me was finding a punchy web address to support it. Wordability.com was gone, snapped up by a Canadian transciption service. Wordability.co.uk was registered to a yet to be revealed online presence. Wordability.ltd.uk, which hadn’t occurred to me anyway, was taken by an online game called Wordability, which appears to be a variant on Scrabble, its main innovation seeming to be that it cares little which direction your word runs in, so long as it runs.

But wordability.net was available, and is now starting its quest for some of the odder and more entertaining new words and usages entering the English language. Let the journey begin.

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5 responses to “What is Wordability?

  1. Great start to your blog Hugh! I look forward to the adventure in words.

    I had some thoughts about the pedant thing but not a word but a phrase. Mutli-phasic pedanticism. When I do find a word I’ll let you know.

    Cheers
    SteveB

  2. I like bipedal bipedant myself. Have a look at this interesting article on what pronouns are really up to: http://bit.ly/qAg16f

  3. Blog-tastic Hugh.Looking forward to the next post. I see plenty of thinking time on the M40 hasn’t been wasted.

  4. I have been contacted by the makers of the Wordability word game so I would like to clarify my earlier comment. They point out it is not a variant of Scrabble. The only similarities to “Scrabble” are that it is a word game, played with lettered tiles on a board. Other than that, they point out the game is different. I am hoping to have a game soon and will report back. Thanks to the Wordability game for getting in touch.

  5. Pingback: Squeezed Middle Named Word Of The Year | Wordability

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