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Sunday 19th May 2013 /
It’s amazing really, with dictionaries packed with words, writers can’t help but make up even more.
Sometimes they do it to name a thing that only exists in their heads. Other times they simply want to amuse, confuse or 'discombobulate' their audience. And once in a while, the word or phrase becomes part of our everyday language.
Here are some of our favourite made up words.
A master at work, Dahl’s ‘The BFG’ features some wonderfully evocative and playful words. There’s the famous snozzcumber, a revoltingly bitter sour vegetable. Not to mention whizzpoppers, noisy flatulence, caused by the drink frobscottle.
In the episode ‘Ink and Incapability”, Blackadder riles a fictional Dr Johnson, congratulating him for the completion of his dictionary:
“I hope you will not object if I offer the Doctor my most enthusiastic contrafibblarities... I am anus-peptic, phrasmotic, even compunctious to have caused you such pericombobulation.”
Of course, we couldn’t mention made up words without the joyous ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’. Penned by the Sherman brothers, the word took two-weeks to create. It’s defined in the film as ‘something to say when you have nothing to say’.
And then there’s the great granddaddy of them all. Shakespeare is renowned for having coined more words that are now used in everyday speech than any other writer – over 1,700 by some estimates. Some of his most famous words or phrases include ‘lie low’, ‘in a pickle’, ‘salad days’, ‘night owl’ and ‘mum’s the word’.
And of course, who could forget Dr Seuss’ ‘zlock’ and ‘ooblek’, Lewis Carroll’s ‘slithy toves’ and ‘jubjub bird’? Not to mention Anthony Burgess’ gang of ‘droogs’ getting off their ‘rassoodocks’ in A Clockwork Orange.
So next time you’re searching for that missing word or elusive new brand name, perhaps the answer’s not in the thesaurus at all. It could be something entirely new.
The flags are flying from every car window in the country and the pundits are now in full flow, but sometimes it’s the players who give us the best insights into the game.
Here are a few great football wordsmiths in action:
"I can see the carrot at the end of the tunnel." Stuart Pearce
"My parents have been there for me, ever since I was about 7." David Beckham
"I couldn’t settle in Italy – it was like living in a foreign country." Ian Rush
"We lost because we didn’t win." Ronaldo
"If you don’t believe you can win, there is no point in getting out of bed at the end of the day." Neville Southall
"I'd love to be a mole on the wall in the Liverpool dressing room at half-time." Kevin Keegan
Of course, before we get carried away, you’ve yet to see the Ink team play football.
Ask most brands what’s special about their service or product and they’ll say ‘quality’. But how can you put this into words? How can your tone of voice help express this quality?
Part of getting across quality comes down to the facts: the substance that really makes a tangible difference. But the way you write about your product makes a difference too.
1. Be quietly confident
There’s a lot to be said for understatement. When brands shout too loud about how great they are it can point to a lack of confidence. And high quality brands can be the worst culprits littering their copy with superlatives like ‘the best ever’, ‘the ultimate’ or that all-time classic, ‘luxurious’.
It’s the brands that have mastered understatement and created their own unique tone of voice that really stand out. Brands such as Apple, Honda and Orange somehow manage to shout louder by being quieter.
2. Show don’t tell
This is a classic writer’s trick. When you evoke images in a reader’s head – rather than simply telling them facts – it can be incredibly effective. But how can this help get across the idea of quality?
The trick is not to push quality messages too hard. Don’t keep telling your reader that your product or service is the best. But show them by explaining how it works, what makes it different and by describing all the care and attention that lies behind it.
Lead your reader to a conclusion, don’t tell them what to think.
3. Don’t try too hard
We’ve all read copy that sounds forced, stuffy or overly ‘intellectual’. And unfortunately many big brands still subscribe to the belief that jargon impresses clients. The truth is, it simply makes people switch off. Just because something’s high quality, doesn’t mean it has to sound overly complicated.
Of course, there are lots of other ways to evoke quality in words. But stick with these three principles and you won’t go too far wrong.