Neppe, VM. The Neologism:
A Personal Evolutionary Exploration. Telicom. 2009; 22: 2, April
– June. 39-48.
Neppe, VM. Perspective to the neologism (Part 1). Telicom. 2009; 21: 21: 2, April – June. 39-41.
Neppe, VM. The Ultra lengthy Neologism: The modern evolution of the longest English words? (Part 2) Telicom. 2009; 21: 21: 3, July-Sept, 41-44.
Neppe, VM. Neologisms: The Evolutional Outreach of Twentieth Century Science—Illustrative Medical Terminology (Part 3)
Telicom. 2009; 21: 21: 2, April – June. 45-46.
Neppe, VM. Have I truly already read all this? Or is this déjà lu?
The phenomenological approach to neologisms and importing French idiom
to boot. (Part 4) Telicom. 2009; 21: 21: 2, April – June. 46-47.
Neppe, VM. The Psychopathological Perspective to Neologisms (Part 5)
Telicom. 2009; 21: 21: 2,
April – June. 47-48.
The Neologism: A Personal Evolutionary Exploration
Neppe MD, PhD, FRSSAf.1
Abstract: English new words and phrases (neologisms) are sequentially examined in four different general use and application contexts applying the principles of utility, parsimony and necessity to meaning.
— the longest word (e.g., ethicospirituobiospsychofamili
2. the medical model (new diagnoses, new syndromes, new terms, new concepts),
3. phenomenological descriptors derived from another language— déjà experiences (28 different French origin terms). These three normal uses are contrasted with the fourth context:
4. pathological use: neologisms that reflect the psychopathology of neuropsychiatric disorders (e.g., schizophrenia, autism and aphasia).
Keywords: Aphasia, Chindling, CTLSs, Deinduction,
Dysproccia, Déjà, Ethicobiopsychofamiliosociocul
Variant listed elsewhere: Ethicobiopsychofamiliosociospi
"Yesterday's neologisms, like yesterday's jargon, are often today's essential vocabulary." Marjorie Garber. 3
Words…words…words…and new words, to boot. But in my personal exploration, these neologisms—new words—must be valuable: they must be unique, they must transmit new ideas, novel concepts, and innovative ways of communicating yet be intuitive enough in verbalization that their meaning is implied. These have been the evolutionary challenges for inventing new neologisms.
A neologism (from Greek neo = "new" + logos = "word" + ismos = “state”) is a word or phrase that, although devised relatively recently in a specific time period, has not been accepted into a mainstream language. By definition, neologisms are "new", and as such are often directly attributable to a specific individual, publication, period, or event. The term "neologism" was coined in 1803.4
What makes my own personal voyage into the neologism domain of language so exciting?
It is because my first loves are creative theorizing, conceptualization, and pragmatic empiricism…and ostensible neologisms—but only when worthwhile—are integral components of advancement in this romantic sojourn. So, onward with our travels!
I give just a tiny taste of the sheer beauty—the remarkable splendor of the area. I have chosen three vignettes reflecting usage in “normal” individuals: the ultralengthy word, the evolutional outreach of new twentieth century science, and scientific phenomenological applications of a foreign language concept. These are contrasted with the fourth, the psychopathological approach to neologisms In each there is the taste of what was and what is reflecting personal creative contribution.
I focus on English. Evolutionally, there has been a change in spelling as well as grammatical and word usage over time. There have even been the cultural perspectives: Americanese has possibly a thousand different words today, in addition, to classical British English. Add in new words in South African, Australian, Canadian, Indian and other colonial English variants and we5 already have the evolution over time of the English language with abundant neologisms—all commonly applied, recently coined words or phrases or recently extended meanings of existing words or phrases. 6
The Norman Conquest swept away the regular spelling system of Old English. Then English itself was eclipsed by the French for three centuries. Therefore, English spelling became significantly influenced by French. Also, many century old neologisms are derivations of spelling of Middle English, such as in the writings of Geoffrey Chaucer; These are commonly very irregular and inconsistent. 7 As an addition, we see derivations from many other sources: South African English leans heavily on the Dutch and, to some degree, the German. And classical English has, of course, direct derivations from Latin and Greek. There are more recently numerous Yiddish words that have crept into English. Currently, English spelling is perceived (as in this word, I before E except after C) as one of the most irregular spelling systems. Although French encoded writing may even be more difficult, English decoding (reading) is more difficult. English has never had any formal regulating authority, like the Spanish Real Academia Española, Italian Accademia Della Crusca or the French Académie Française, so attempts to regularize have been limited. 8
William of Ockham (1287–1347) enunciated a methodological principle that has application even today: “Occam’s razor” 9. This emphasizes cautious discretion before creating new terms and concepts.
Occam’s razor opposes otherwise meaningless and superfluous terms. New words should be useful, applicable and necessary. Today, we realize that we should have a functional, sufficiently differentiated system of terms (e.g., as in déjà experiences below) but we also warn against neologisms “beyond a necessary scale”. Stupid terminology sometimes occurs as a “show vocabulary” within new fields of science struggling for recognition: These should be avoided.
Today, too, we realize that Occam’s razor contains some myths: For example, renowned parapsychologist, Charley Tart speaks of pseudoparsimony where the most parsimonious explanation is not the correct one —e.g., as in the out-of-body experience (another term developed by Dr Tart). Similarly, “simplicity” often cannot be sustained.11 This is so as it cannot help toward a rational decision between competing explanations of the same empirical facts.12
Let us examine the challenge of the longest English word and the neologistic pretenders to that throne. We will then continue very briefly to examine illustrative neologisms that I’ve suggested in two disciplines simply to illustrate the modern approach to new word formation, all the while bearing in mind the philosophical underpinnings of Ockham and his subsequent critics. I am deliberately avoiding detail, although citing the original sources for those interested in pursuing why the specific terms were motivated, and their special characteristics. Of thousands of potential illustrative contexts, I have chosen four illustrative personal interest topics:
The Ultra lengthy Neologism: The modern evolution of the longest English words? (Part 2)13.’
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
-Mother Teresa 14
What is the longest word in the English language? This was a common riddle I would hear as a child of the 1950s and 1960s. Rather proudly the response would be mile because it was a mile long; but then the question was can we pluralize it? Hence, miles. Then came the answer to the riddle: if MILES is so long, then adding an “S” makes it longer, hence the answer was smiles. I always felt that the riddle answer was incorrect and certainly the 21st century equivalent would be light-year, light-years and then add on the “s” and make is slight-years!
In actual fact, long words were rather unusual until William Shakespeare came up with his honorificabilitudinitatibus, and thereafter there have been various challenges as words have become longer and longer. There is a fascinating history here, of questionable genuineness. The origin, of course, is in the bard’s play, Love's Labours Lost, Costard, the witty clown who drives the sub-plot of the play, criticizes the loquaciousness of Don Adriano de Armado and schoolmaster Holofernes:
Costard: O, they have lived long on the alms-basket of words.
I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word;
for thou art not so long by the head as
honorificabilitudinitatibus: thou art easier
swallowed than a flap-dragon. (5.1.38-42)
Let us now examine the modern pretenders to the throne of the longest word:
Let’s first venture into such obscure lexicographical neologisms.
For a long time the term
antidisestablishmentarianism referring to a movement opposed to
the separation of church and state at 28 letters was popularly believed
to be the longest word. A friend of mine once suggested adding prefixes
like “anti” (just as was done in antidisestablishmentarianism
to this but that becomes a worthless extra term (indeed we could apply
surely antidisestablishmentarianism had beaten out the puny 27
lettered "Honorificabilitudinitatibus”. But this was never
so because of "
in my preface to my 1989 book, “Innovative Psychopharmacotherapy”
(at 21 letters possibly still the longest word in a book title) an equivalent
length word derivation was born, namely biopsychofamiliosociocultural 18.
It was equal tied in length with floccinaucinihilipilification
at 29 letters tied as the longest English word at the time. The tie
was which means estimating worthlessness! Unlike the literal worthlessness
recently I added spirituo-, discussing this in a closed email
group of scientists who appear to regard it as valuable: Hence the development
of a term that received the following response and consequent dialog:
“…this wonderful term: Ethicospirituobiopsychofamilio
brought me to an earlier well received suggestion I had already made:
We could add extra components e.g., politicospirituomilitaroeconom
We could further add pharmaco- based on medication responsiveness and physicochemical as fundamental science so , they include the extra legitimate components above respectively making them 91, 93 and 94 letters long using thirteen fundamental areas of systems theory:
These various subsystems can be interchanged in order to emphasize certain aspects— for example, the position of spirituo- can be relocated in these various words as can physicochemical or pharmaco- dependent on emphases. Systems theory is critical.
These terms still reflect a very meaningful and useful systems approach. Systems theory has become critically important in the social and medical sciences. I think the essence of such lengthy words has to be their utility and this certainly has utility in many different systems approaches in the social, medical and parapsychological scientific areas. This is as opposed to extra additions unlikely to be useful terms reflected, of course, by other potentially multifaceted systems each useful within their scientific endeavor but collectively irrelevant: e.g.,
are some more ultralengthy words even if they don't count: the longest
word cited by the Guinness Book of Records, allegedly represents the
name for human mitochondrial DNA, and is 207,000+ letters long. This
is unacceptable as a regular English word — proper technical names
plus strings of chemicals exclude it. Ditto for the longest hypothetically
legal Scrabble word (>15 letters, the Scrabble board width) in North
American play, namely ethylenediaminetetraacetates (28 letters).
This is the plural of a word found in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary,
10th edition (previously a dictionary of reference in North American
Scrabble play). Similarly, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwy
I mention a historical error; Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilico
the bottom line is the longest regular and meaningful word in the English
language in both common usage, and that appears in any book is my term
Monster terms can be made, but we must ensure adequacy of meaning and relevant application within the contextual subculture.
Neologisms: The Evolutional Outreach of Twentieth Century Science—Illustrative Medical Terminology (Part 3). 24
“No new science is possible without neologisms, new words or new interpretations of old words to describe and explain reality in new ways.” 25 Ingar Roggen: Root knowledge.
New medical diagnoses (conditions) and symptom clusters (syndromes) are legitimate approaches to neologisms. Possibly the most famous recent new diagnosis is MRSA or Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus infection. Awareness of such conditions enhances appropriate medical practice provided they are legitimate, logical and fill a void. They become the simplest, most parsimonious explanations!
Recently in Telecom I described several new terms, corresponding with new medical paroxysmal (episodic brain re1ated) conditions namely: Paroxysmal neurobehavioral disorder 26 relating to abnormal brain firing and a cluster of episodic symptoms, paroxysmal somatoform disorder27 relating to a cluster of episodic non-epileptic bodily symptoms and paroxysmal photosensitivity syndrome28 relating to profound sensitivity to flashing lights producing a cluster of episodic symptoms ranging from headache to seizures to vertigo to nausea. These are very appropriate combination terms because they describe new medical conditions made up of a cluster of symptoms, signs and tests. They therefore fulfill a void in the literature, and reflect new simple, parsimonious contributions to the medical literature.
I have further previously described another but different kind of neuropsychiatric medical entity, namely dysproccia29. This differs in that it reflects a syndrome—this reflects a cluster of symptom features that empirically manifest based on the higher brain dysfunction difficulty of processing information. Like many neurological conditions, there can be a motor, sensory or mixed component. Hence amongst the subterms for this neologism are other neologism phrases. Namely executive dysproccia, perceptual dysproccia and mixed dysproccia, respectively. Again, there was a need for the condition, because children particularly commonly have learning disabilities as a consequence (they take hours to do 20 minutes of homework, for example) and a demand for a descriptive term, because this was lacking.
New medical concepts
One of the most famous of our more recent neurological concepts was the awareness that repetitive stimulation of an area of the brain could result in the stimulus required being less to evoke a response. Canadian, Graham Goddard in 1967 called this kindling— just as a small spark applied to tinder can ignite a flame that eventually can grow into a roaring bonfire, a small electrical stimulus, just large enough to trigger a brief burst of seizure activity, when repeatedly applied, may eventually generate seizures that can lead to fully generalized behavioral convulsions. The evolution of the neologism was my own further extension of this concept to chindling. Effectively, chindling is chemically (as opposed to electrically) induced kindling like phenomenon e.g., with lidocaine, where tiny doses eventually produce a threshold response.30 The phenomenon although akin to kindling is pharmacologically different.
In a similar vein, one can analyze symptoms and develop clusters of terms based on the symptom relevance and specificity to various anatomical areas. Here an important brain example relates to two measuring historical questionnaires I developed (TLQ, INSET) screening for temporal lobe disease or dysfunction in the brain31 with the terms PTLSs (possible temporal lobe symptoms), as well as others e.g., CTLSs (controversial temporal lobe symptoms) plus non-specific (temporal lobe) symptoms. Again the purpose has to be to enhance scientific classification which it does.
The final medical examples reflect pharmacological concepts: when enzymes in the liver are speeded up, we refer to induction of these enzymes. This was described by several authors about 1961.
Now the interesting aspect is that I described the opposite phenomenon of deinduction (using the carbamazepine model) about 1986. Several experts have thought I developed this term. While researching this article, I discovered that indeed it was Albers in 1963 that had first used the term induction! 32 (Although this was not a clinical description).
A final example of a neologism in pharmacology is describing a new side-effect. If there is no verbalization of its exact nature it goes unrecognized. I first used the term “NVD” or “Non-vertiginous dizziness” in 1989 to reflect a common side-effect specific to some azapirone drugs such as buspirone. Such descriptions are best based physiologically and this seems correlated with the serotonin 1A receptor subtype.33
Then there is the need for extending the classification of common medical events. We would always talk of “minor brain injury” when referring to concussions or short periods of unconsciousness after head injury. But there is nothing minor about someone who may end up with possible permanent sequelae, sometimes due to a specific area of higher brain cortex being damaged. It was important to recognize that all we were measuring was degree of closed head injury, consequently in 1999, I introduced the terms closed head injury of transient—CHIT (and permanent—CHIP) types.34
The common key to all of these is that unless we know about the presence of some medical feature and have a way to describe it, it will not be recognized. Language is our key vehicle to achieve this.
Have I truly already read all this? Or is this déjà lu? The phenomenological approach to Neologisms and importing French idiom to boot. (Part 4).35
Déjà vu experiences could illustrate neologisms for three reasons: First, it is, par excellence, the new term that has derived from another language (here French) and accepted into our English lexicography; secondly, there have been numerous new terms introduced over the past three decades—in fact, I don’t know of any other area in which there are so many derivative English terms; and thirdly, in the context of my own personal explorations, déjà experiences have dramatically reflected my work in neologisms.
In my 1983 book on the topic, the first scientific one in the literature, The Psychology of Déjà Vu: Have I Been Here Before, 36 I defined déjà vu (literally “already seen” and regarded as the generic déjà experience) with a definition that is now universally used namely “any subjectively inappropriate impression of familiarity of the present experience with an undefined past.” 37
Could we shelter all the different forms under that single umbrella term of déjà vu? It appeared not, as by the time of my research in 1979, there were already ten other lesser known déjà terms, all decades old: Some, such as déjà voulu, were purely theoretical, with active reports being unavailable.
In my 1981 PhD thesis, I needed to suggest ten new kinds of déjà experiences (see “Déjà Vu Revisited”) plus four new déjà subtypes. In 2006, I updated the literature (“Déjà vu: A Second Look”) describing nine new déjà experiences, and creating a third glossary and bibliography in the area (“Déjà vu: Glossary and Library”)38
This way when déjà vu is screened for, these potentially new kinds of déjà experiences are asked about. Otherwise we may remain unaware of their presence particularly in patients with psychosis, temporal lobe disease and in subjective paranormal experients. Indeed, they became part of the most comprehensive questionnaire on the topic.39
The demonstration of different subtypes of déjà experience justifies all these different new terms as scientists can now approach this phenomenon more completely.
The Psychopathological Perspective to Neologisms (Part 5).40
“Neologisms tend not only to hypostatize themselves to an amazing degree, but actually to replace the reality they were originally intended to express.” —Carl Gustav Jung 41
What is not meaningful should not be new or accepted: It becomes idiosyncratic and possibly psychiatric. As a neuropsychiatrist and also as a phenomenologist I am ambivalent about the uninhibited, “normal” use of the term “neologism” (above): My training has always perceived neologisms as specifically limited to abnormality, implying unique, unnecessary, unparsimonious complexity.
In psychiatry, the term neologism has a special use, possibly since its first use by Schreber in 1858.42 It is expressly used to describe individuals, generally psychotic patients, who develop their own new language system including new words. These reflect pathological symptoms with idiosyncratic or meaningless relevance. Sometimes they are so bizarre that they may reflect a “word salad” with incomprehensible sounds put together. Psychiatric neologisms are words or phrases that only have meaning to the person who uses them, independent of their common meaning. This is usually considered normal in children (although it may occur pathologically as in autism), but a symptom of thought disorder (indicative of a psychotic mental illness, such as schizophrenia) in adults. Neurologically, neologisms may also be related to aphasia acquired after brain damage, resulting for example, from a stroke or head injury, or infection of the brain. Aphasia is the term applied for a disorder of higher brain functioning in relation to the content of speech. Neologisms may sometimes be close approximations to words and phrases, where the patient is seeking out a word that they cannot fully verbalize. On the other hand, in psychosis, the neologism may be so unusual that there is not even any resemblance to any known concept and it may be based on special meanings the patient imputes to objects or events.
There is incidentally even a theological use of neologism: This is a relatively new doctrine (for example, rationalism) where the neologist is an innovator in the area of a doctrine or belief system. Although, this is often considered heretical or subversive by the mainstream clergy or religious institution, it certainly is not pathological. This is an example of distinguishing ideas that are idiosyncratic and are individual, fixed and false (delusions) from those that may be false and strange but relating to subculture. Delusions may characteristically respond to appropriate psychopharmacological interventions. The exact nature and dosage are dependent on the underlying electrical-chemical disturbances.43 In contrast, beliefs that do not pervade the broader macroculture but may fit the family or microsociety will not respond to antipsychotic medication—generally, such persons would not tolerate a half or even a tenth of the dose that an acutely psychotic patient would. Becoming, for example, severely sedated or developing muscle stiffness. This is, in fact, one test of another medical neological diagnostic entity I described (1984) namely Subjective paranormal experience psychosis44 that entered the mainstream psychiatric literature in 1989.45 (The term subjective paranormal experience or SPE is also a neologism approaching its third decade in the parapsychological literature.46)
I, clearly, have a fascination with words, particularly new words. But those neologisms must have a utility and be a contribution to the area. My favorite personal neologism remains sciction (1999)47 to describe a new literary genre requiring science through literature, and fascination through education and its differentiation of previous related but different words such as science-fiction and faction. With sciction came the awareness of a new writing style, creating the combination subparagraphs that I called conversagraphs.48
I regard the lexicographer’s awarenesses in neologisms research as requiring:
Documentation of new terms that are used in the relevant literature if they give any hint of being used by others; and setting forth terms that should be used more frequently than they are. Specifically:
We should bear in mind that every word was in the beginning a neologism, requiring continued acceptance for its continued use and possible public modifications over time. This is the evolution of the neologism!