Some of the best words that never were

A user of this website recently left a comment asking why we had chosen to mark as ‘rejected’ a word that another user had submitted. After all, the word had been invented and used by that person, so surely it should be included in the dictionary.

This argument imagines the dictionary as being an attempt to record every word that has ever been recorded by anyone in print or online. This is a rather exciting idea, but unfortunately it isn’t really a practical proposition, not least because it would not fulfil the important function of showing which words and spellings are generally accepted, and so can be used in formal communications, academic work, and so on.

So the editors check suggested words against a vast database of English (about 4.5 billion words) to see how often they crop up in there. It is the words that crop up most often that are added to the dictionary, while ones that do not occur at all are discarded from consideration.

This means that people who make up and suggest very original words are likely to find that these invented words are not added to the dictionary – or at least not added immediately. Before they could be included, the words would need to be taken up and used by other people.

But of course every word has to start somewhere, and we want to encourage users to share their best ideas. So I thought it would be interesting to collect here a few words that have been submitted to the site and which might justifiably be used more widely. Here are some that particularly appeal to me:

asparaguru a person who proclaims the health-giving benefits of vegetables (by vivauganda)

chavalanche a large group of chavs (by Wordsmiff)

gincident an unfortunate mishap caused by the overconsumption of alcohol (by iferns)

internettle something hurtful posted on the internet (by haxel)

obitchery an obituary in which the writer takes the opportunity to settle a few scores with the deceased (by vivauganda)

prepostrophe a conspicuously incorrect use of the apostrophe (by nonperson)

queuedenfreude the delight felt by those at the front of the queue at the misfortune of those at the back (by jeremyshaw)

Now all you, the readers of this blog, need to do is to start using any of these words that especially amuse you and we shall see if any of them catch on!

Ian Brookes, Consultant Editor, Collins Dictionary

Other Articles

National Limerick Day

There was an old dictionary buffWhose dog snorted mountains of snuff.Himself, so we hear,Preferred to quaff beer,A brew it found frightfully duff. Ah, limericks! The verse form that trips off the tongue like no other. Once particularly popular with rugby teams and the forces, they are the one kind of… Read More

7 Shakespearean words to add to your vocabulary

It’s English Language Day! The annual event where language lovers come together to celebrate the great William Shakespeare and a chance to celebrate multilingualism in English-speaking countries around the globe. We’re celebrating with this list of 7 Shakespearean words to weave into your vocabulary. Without further ado, let us go… Read More

What is brain fog anyway?

Brain fog has been on people’s minds in more ways than one during the pandemic and after the recent lockdownversary. Whether you’re struggling to concentrate in meetings, finding creative thinking nearly impossible, or you’ve lost interest in cracking into that latest bestseller, brain fog has become… Read More