So again, what makes a word real? People make a word real, just as people make art, music, or poetry real. People create words, and people give those words meaning. As Anne Curzan mentions in her Ted Talk, language is a living thing. It changes as we change. Whether or not we want to accept it matters not.
I decided eight weeks ago that I would pursue an MA in English for three different reasons. The first is that I am a single mother, and during the weekends when my children are away, I find myself under the covers “binge-racing” series after series. I decided I needed forced structure in the form of discussion boards and due dates.
The second point is that I love literature, I love language, and I love learning. Learning how to fix a sentence that is not translating smoothly is necessary to write well and to teach well. And it’s simply fun!
The third reason is that I will be seeking an English teaching job, preferably with all Honors and AP classes filled with motivated students who want to work. That is if I can ever pass the ultra-relevant-to-teaching-English-at-the-secondary-level math praxis. I figured if by chance the math praxis turns out to be my Moby Dick, I can always teach at the college level. I hear the pay is fantastic!
So in thinking about words, what even makes a word real? An art appreciation professor posed this same question to me years ago. What makes art real? And who is to judge? Is a crumpled piece of paper art if a person claims it to be? Or anything by Jackson Pollock for that matter? Or what about Marcel Duchamp? Is his urinal art when compared to Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith painting?
My initial response was no! But in considering the question, one has to go beyond their tastes and preferences and consider other factors. Cultural context matters. Social factors matter. Just as Gentileschi was influenced by the demands of the religious climate, so Duchamp and the Dadaists were affected by the first global war and the culture that allowed such a travesty to occur. Just as art changes with the times, so does language.
I detest lol, but if I remember that it is shorthand used in informal situations such as texting or on social media, then I am more inclined to acknowledge it. I still don’t like it, but I can accept it. My new favorite word, although my twelve-year-old told me it’s out of fashion now, is “derpy.” Derpy means stupid. It’s a little less harsh than the word stupid which is why I like it. And if I’m honest, it’s a fun word to say.
What are some of your favorite “real” words?