Thursday, 5 May 2011

What a Nonce!

Nonce words live and die in the moment, or that's the usual fate of Nonce words.

For example Pandora, the planet in the James Cameron movie Avatar , there the blue people speak a language called Na'vi, where trr'ong means dawn and frawzo is wonderful.

Paul Frommer, the American linguist invented the ET-speak from scratch, a language that sounded unearthly yet could still be uttered by humans. In short, an A to Z of nouce words.

Anthony Burgess did likewise in A Clockwork Orange, his fable of urban decay written in 1962. Alex and his fellow droogs (or mates) speak a slang called Nadsat, a hybrid of Russian and Cockney rhymes. Deng is money and bezoomy - mad.....neither word slated to survive beyond the novel's covers.

Because that's what happens. We see a nonce word we like and adopt it. We feed it milk (and oxygen) much like a stray cat.

This happened to the word quark. It was sitting unloved in James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake when a New York physicist called Murray Gell-Mann plucked it off the page and used quark to label one of the three hypothetical particles that form the basis of our Universe......Quite the honour, when you think about it!

As readers, we fall in love with inspired nonsense. We refer to runcible spoons (Edward Carroll) and mimsy wabes (Lewis Carroll), despite not grasping what the terms truly mean. From doh to supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, we collect nonce words like sea-shells. And the moment we pick one up, the term outlives its own transience to become a genuine part of speech.

"Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands, and goes to work"
~~ Carl Sandburg



This very friendly Magpie, that enjoyed sharing our apple in Palm Beach, Sydney, had a very quizzical look on her/his face as I was talking to him/her. Maybe I was talking Nonce! - 12 March 2011.

16 comments:

T's Daily Treasures said...

Hey Peggy, hope all is well. That Magpie is so cute. I bet its thinking, got any shiny stuff for me? Take care! Tammy

Mike Smith said...

I love these words Peggy. Did you know that Scots is the only language where a double positive can form a negative as in 'Will you cut the grass today?' 'Aye, right...'

Conversely a double negative makes a positive. 'Can you do this for me now?' 'Nae bother!'

Have a good Friday!

Stoneweaver said...

A bit like 'goggling' then? Tee-Hee heee! ;o)

Indeed, authors have long invented whole languages. Tolkein constructed an Elvish language for Lord of the Rings - remember the lovely singing bit at the end of the third film? And then there is Klingon - used mainly these days for chatting up fellow sci-fi fans at Star Trek conventions (!)

And if we are talking about double negatives - what about the Kiwi "Yeah, no, yeah" I love it!!!!

Christine said...

interesting how we make our words!

I heard snails like apples too.

miruspeg said...

Tammy - Oh yes I had forgotten that Magpies like shiny things, maybe he was checking out my gold chain!!

Mike - Trust the Scots to have double positives and double negatives, no wonder your langange sometimes sounds like double dutch!
You have a great Friday too mate!

Stoneweaver - Thanks for adding more nonce examples.
I just found another quote about nonce words:
"A word is dead, When it is said, Some say. I say it just, Begins to live, That day."
~~ Emily Dickinson
I guess that is what nonce words are. :-)

Christine - I had no idea snail like apples. You are very knowledgeable my friend! Must be all the goggling you do.....or is it googling!

Robin Easton said...

Dear Peggy, what a fascinating post. I love it because both my husband and I are always making up new words. He is much better at it than I am. In fact he is so good at it that other people immediately start using the words he makes up. For example he calls Fa*ts Smellebrations! LOLOL!! :) :) I LOVE that! And when someone cries and laughs at the same time, he says they are "craughing" LOL! He has a very quick mind/wit like that, which always makes life interesting and funny! :)

This was a fun read, Peggy, and the photo of the magpie is delightful. I think he took one look at you and said, "Whoa! Here's a live one. She ain't no 'normal' human being. She's reeeeeally special, a really smart one for a change. I bet she can read my thoughts. I LIKE HER!!!" LOL :) :)

It's true; animals can sense when a human is kind, open, aware, safe and so on. I'm SURE he picked all that up in YOU!.

Magpies belong to the Corvidae family of birds, like crows, ravens, choughs, jays, nutcrackers, treepies, jackdaws, and rooks, etc. They are EXTREMELY observant, HIGHLY intelligent, and often interactive.

Also my dear dear beautiful Peggy, I had to go to my Amazon book page to get my ISBN number last night and I saw your review of "Naked in Eden". I was soooooooo blown away and touched that I teared up. I shared it with my husband and he said what amazingly kind woman you are. He too was very moved by your thoughtfulness. I think what blew me away was that you went and silently did that, never even told me, and just did it from your kind generous heart. I was sooooooo MOVED by that.

You are truly a remarkable and rare soul walking the planet. Peggy, I feel humbled in your presence. I love you, and have the deepest respect for who you are choosing to be in the world. Who you are is SO needed in the world right now.

Bless you dear friend. I am sending you the warmest hug. Love, Robin xox

Chapter Forty said...

Hey I am really loving "smellabrations" and will be making sure that is a word used in our house.
Its amazing how nonce words become mainstream and then even make their way into a dictionary.

When writing I believe in keeping words crystal clear so they can do their job of communicating. Which means I particularly hate jargon of any kind. Nonces are entertainment in themselves and help authors make make-believe, believable. It's all in the detail isn't it?

miruspeg said...

Oh Robin I am overwhelmed by your generous heartfelt words and deeply touched.

Your husband sounds like a very clever hoot and a wonderful soul mate.

How fortunate you have been to find two soul mate partners in one lifetime.....but I am not surprised because you touch each and every person you meet.

What an absolute blessing you are my friend. xxxxxx

miruspeg said...

Chapter Forty my dear fellow Aussie.
Isn't it amazing the connections and inspirations we find in cyberspace.

I am a huge fan of your writing style and your mothering/nurturing ability. You combine and foster your talents admirably.

How very fortunate I am to be travelling along the same path as you and your family. xxxxxxx

PS Happy Mothers Day!

Marja said...

Very interesting I love nonce words and my daughter used to have a language of her own as she couldn't retrieve the usual words when she was small. That made me guessing but it was like a game to unravel a secret language.
I love the poems of lewis carol. He made the nonce words sound so real. We grew up in Holland with every town using their own slang. I couldn't understand anything my niece said in a town just 20 km away from ours. I wish I could tell you the dutch words because they were actually quite funny.
I wil try to translate one. Their word for vacuum cleaner was something like crying broom.
Arohanui xx marja

miruspeg said...

Like you Marja I find nonce words great fun and as I love using slang, nonce sentences/words really "tickle my fancy"!
I love that a vacuum cleaner is called a crying broom....how delightful.

Thanks for stopping by and adding such an interesting comment.
Big hugs
Peggy xxxxx

Evil Shannanigans said...

Didn't we have this conversation awhile back Pegs? I believe I was bringing gobbledegook back from obscurity
I love language, it is so much fun!

Lilly said...

Now, if someone doesn't understand what I am saying I can just say I am talking nonce. Its a skill this nonce making. Love it.

And Robin, isnt she something too, just as you are Peggy. sound slike her book is out, must go and check it out as I have lost touch with her blog.

miruspeg said...

Lilly - Nonce talk is definitely a skill. I would love to make up a new language.....although I often combine two words when trying to think of the right word.

Regarding Robin....she sure is a special soul. Her book "Naked in Eden" is a MUST read!

Cameron said...

That Magpie is wonderful...I've never seen one in person. They don't live around here....but lots and lots of crows. I sometimes call my daughter, Maggie, Magpie.

The most Nonce words I use would have to be the terms of endearment I use for her...haha! Pumpkin Noodle, Pookie Pie, Pookahontas, Pookity, Lovebugamus....

miruspeg said...

Cameron - The Australian Magpie is a wonderful songbird and can also mimic over 35 species of birds as well as dogs and other animals. When alone it makes a quiet musical warbling.....which is very distinctive.

I like your Nonce words, it sounds like you enjoy using them. :-)