Chasing The Word Dragon

Riffing off my recent language posts here lately, I want to highlight some of the writing exercises I do every week. I call it ‘wordwork,’ but you might call it writer’s calisthenics, exercises designed to break through the fog of morning and get the creative juices flowing. Each day I do several exercises, paint a scene with words, write a brief character sketch, five hundred words handwritten. But once or twice I week I do a random word writing exercise. (Take a ‘found’ word or phrase and use it in a scene, or character sketch, or sometimes even a blog post.) And one of the best places to find random words or phrases is the Urban Dictionary. If you haven’t visited it, I would suggest you put it in your RSS feed. There are some really hilarious modern words and idioms to be found there.

Just today I stumbled across the following: immaculate congestion, defined as: When traffic is backed up for miles on a highway, crawling along — and then suddenly everyone returns to normal high speeds without passing an accident, stalled car, or road construction. Then there is Elf-Esteem, which I think many of us can relate to: The feeling of being overworked, underappreciated and like you don’t exist to others during the holidays while in actuality the season’s success depends on you. And my recent favorite, chasing the dragon, which is defined as: Originally in reference to feeding an opium addiction, this can refer to ploughing through any task past the point of diminishing returns, with disregard to one’s own health, sanity or well-being.

There are many, many more phrases and words worth mining. What I find fascinating about the Urban Dictionary is there is this whole community effort to catalog the emerging slang, idioms and colloquialisms emerging out of American pop-culture. Pop-culture is certainly a catalyst for language change. And often pop-culture creates some very descriptive, concrete neologisms. This is to be applauded.

Now, I’m not a language purist. I’m not going to go all concern troll-French Academy of Arts and Sciences on you, worrying about how best to preserve the innate character of our mother tongue, English. Why?

Because languages evolve and change. Witnessing that change–and perchance to be a part of it–is what being a writer is about. Who doesn’t want to coin a phrase that English-speakers will be using in two hundred years?

If languages are going to change, why not have a front row seat? Better yet, why not step into the ring?

One Response to “Chasing The Word Dragon”

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    [...] Chronicles Of The Return » Blog Archive » Chasing The Word Dragon http://www.seanpaulkelley.com/?p=587 – view page – cached Riffing off my recent language posts here lately, I want to highlight some of the writing exercises I do every week. I call it ‘wordwork,’ but you might call it writer’s calisthenics, exercises designed to break through the fog of morning and get the creative juices flowing. Each day I do several exercises, paint a scene with words, write a brief character sketch, five hundred words… Read moreRiffing off my recent language posts here lately, I want to highlight some of the writing exercises I do every week. I call it ‘wordwork,’ but you might call it writer’s calisthenics, exercises designed to break through the fog of morning and get the creative juices flowing. Each day I do several exercises, paint a scene with words, write a brief character sketch, five hundred words handwritten. But once or twice I week I do a random word writing exercise. (Take a ‘found’ word or phrase and use it in a scene, or character sketch, or sometimes even a blog post.) And one of the best places to find random words or phrases is the Urban Dictionary. If you haven’t visited it, I would suggest you put it in your RSS feed. There are some really hilarious modern words and idioms to be found there. View page [...]

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