How Do You Make Made-Up Words "Lookupable?"

by Jaime Lutz

Presumably, the word "lookupable" will be one of the first new words in this dictionary: The online word search engine Wordnik is close to funding a Kickstarter that would back a search to add a million missing words to their dictionary — that is, to make made-up words "lookupable." Wordnik, which specializes in providing definitions for the neologisms that newspaper style sections and Vine stars make up seemingly every day, was founded by Erin McKean, an amazing linguist who subscribes to the radical, incredibly, loveably nerdy philosophy that all words are worthy of a definition — and given the rate at which our vocabulary is expanding these days due to all these made-up words? Well, let's just say that she's probably got the right idea.

According to McKean, half the unique words in English aren't in any dictionary (and she should know — she's been working on dictionaries for more than 20 years, previously as the editor of the New Oxford American Dictionary, second edition). However, she also believes that collecting these words — even the ones that seem silly to us now (see: anything on Urban Dictionary) — will be an important historical artifact that also happens to be useful to current browsers. She writes on the project's Kickstarter page:

Every word deserves a recorded place in our language's history. We want to collect, preserve, and share every word of English, and provide a place where people can find, learn, annotate, comment on, and argue about every word.

If you want to know more about a word — any word! — we want to help you find the information you need. If you're curious about a word, why should you have to wait until someone else decides that a word is worth knowing?

The dictionary will include 21st century context alongside its definitions, including tweets that use the word, images about the word from Flickr, and (yessssss!) the word's Scrabble score.

I love this. For anyone expecting this site to just have a bunch of cutesy new words like "tanorexia" and "awesomesauce" — well, yes, it will have some of that. But it's more than that — there are many, many words that don't have definitions and are actually beautiful, or funny, or linguistically interesting. Here are some of the more unusual words that Wordnik may soon include definitions for:

1. Pedorazzi

As possibly coined by Kristin Bell getting angry over paparazzi targeting her kids.

2. Browspo

You probably know this one, and have occasionally joined in the lust for the perfect set of eyeball toppers.

3. Lypophrenia

This one's popular on Tumblr — it means a feeling of sadness, apparently without a cause.

4. Cromulent

As a sort of descriptivist in-joke, McKean says "it's a perfectly cromulent word" in the Kickstarter video. The word was coined as a Simpsons joke by writer David X. Cohen in the 1996 episode "Lisa the Iconoclast." The word roughly means "fine" or "acceptable."

5. Misophonia

A disorder that causes a hatred of sound, like chewing or gum popping.

6. Kinkshaming

Much like "slutshaming," this means making someone feel uncomfortable and disapproved of for their sexual activity, in this case specifically kinky sex. Identifying it is the first step to stopping it, because shaming is never good. Ever.

7. Olinguito

An adorable mammal that's related to the raccoon and which wasn't discovered until 2013.

8. Agender

Someone who doesn't identify as male or female or any gender at all.

9. Pathomap

A tool that maps the microbiome of a location, like a city — see this as an example.

10. Disenfuckulate

Well, this one's just delightful. It means to solve a disastrous problem that previously appeared FUBAR.

Images: Pixabay; Giphy (11)