Whew! I did quite a bit of reformatting to make my post about connotation infinitely more readable. (It had really bad “Wall of Text” syndrome before, LOL.) Enjoy an easier read and learn a bit about using connotation in your writing!
Made-up words seem to run in our family. From my grandfather’s description of a car accident as “kaloom-bam-boom” to my parents’ word for the bits of sock fabric that always get left on the carpet (“sock doobies”), I guess I get the “creative words” gene honest. English is more fun when you can invent words, I believe. 🙂
Nevertheless, it always surprises people when one of my made-up words pops out of my mouth during a conversation. And I’m usually embarrassed by it at first–somehow, I fear I’ll get sent to the loony bin for some of the random stuff I come up with! But we always end up laughing about it.
Therefore, I will be brave and share some of the random language I speak, so that you, too, may LOL. 🙂
Made-Up Words and Family Slang
From My Dad’s Side
- “kaloom-bam-boom” – a huge accident or fail of some sort (doesn’t have to be car-related).
- “scooter-pootin'” – moving around continuously
- “buke” (“bu” pronounced like “boo”) – to have an accidental bowel movement
- “buuck” (not a typo) – to gag, especially over nasty-tasting food
- “lamm” – to strike repeatedly and forcefully. “He’s just lammin’ that nail, ain’t he?”
- “Big Ike” – overconfident person
- “floof” – to suddenly fall flat on someone or on an object
- “sherp” – to knock one’s feet out from under him (imitating the sound of such an action)
- “sugarpoot”/”sugars**t” – an affectionate pet name for a child (why? I have no idea)
- “asslin’ around” – wasting time, procrastinating (very descriptive 😛 )
- “rhino”/”rhinoceros” – a big butt (like mine, lols)
- “june around” – try to get a lot of things done as quick as possible
- “tooters” – feet
- “blomp” – to walk with slow and heavy steps
- “braish broom” – yard-cleaning broom made of twigs, also used for the occasional whooping
- “mazoozalum” – Grandma Daisy’s pronunciation of “mausoleum”
- “klunk-plink-plink” – Nannie’s opinion of some pianists’ choppy playing styles
- “pipe-stem legs” – very thin legs
From My Immediate Family
- “moosh” – to kill or maim an insect; to massage.
- “goopie” – a tiny, gross object, usually on the floor (bit of chewed food, unidentifiable sticky stuff, etc.)
- “nidgy” – itty-bitty raveled thread (pill) on clothing
- “fuzzbunny” – small ball of lint, usually ends up everywhere
My Own Made-Up Words from Childhood
- “wootburgers” – strictly better than just a side of wootsauce.
- “cubbyhouse” – a kid-size plastic or wood playhouse.
- “giggling” – my kidlike pronunciation of “wiggling”, for whatever reason
- “steamin’ alligator” – somebody who’s doing stuff just to tick me off
- “beat-buttin'” – a particularly harsh (and usually deserved) whoopin’
Since my great-uncle Jim was deaf and read lips, he often tried to speak the words he read others saying; he also made unintentionally hilarious commentary on how others spoke, as well.
- “lotha” – translation of “nothing.” But “lotha” became synonymous with even less than nothing in our family. If you have nothing, you have zero, but if you have “lotha,” you don’t even have zero, if that makes any sense. LOL
- “blellup” – believed to mean something like “hogwash”. Might have been Jim’s translation for “bulls**t”, but we’re not sure.
- “jhi-jhi-jhi-jhi-jhu!” – only said to a baby, in “baby talk” voice. Like “goochy-goochy-goo.”
- “rihbun” – pronunciation of my name.
- “Jhalopy” – pronunciation of the city name “Shelby.”
- “Gaffaley” – pronunciation of the city name “Gaffney.”
- “Boola Sha-prings” – pronunciation of the town name “Boiling Springs.”
- “mih-mih-mih!” – (said very quickly) brusque or angry talking.
- “bipbipbipbipbip” – fast talking, a cigarette bobbing up and down in between someone’s lips as they talk, or never-ending talking.
- “Bih…bih…bih!” – slow and deliberate talking (usually describing Grandma Daisy with a lip full of snuff)
Does Your Family Have Any Funny Made-Up Language?
We can’t be the only ones! LOL! If this post reminds you of some of the funny language in your own family, tell me about it in the comments.
Typos are just funny. When you know what the person meant to say, and yet it came out so differently…it’s hilarious. That’s probably one reason I love sites like Lamebook and WTF AutoCorrects–the funniest moments come from those inadvertent mistakes in a status message or a comment, and it renders the whole sentence as nonsense. Both sites, as well as thousands of others across the Internet, are brimming with typo examples that make me giggle.
But it’s not just online that typos appear for a quick laugh. Signage, especially handwritten signs or movable-letter signs, can be just as full of errors and lead to a snort or snicker while driving down the road. (I actually had to pull off the road into a parking lot one time because I had driven by a prom dress shop whose sign read “BUY YOUR WHOLE PRON LOOK HERE.” I was laughing so hard at the unintentional Internet porn reference, I was crying and couldn’t drive. XD)
As a former English teacher, I’ve seen my share of typos and their written counterparts in student work, and I see a lot of them online. I know I really shouldn’t laugh at typos, but should madly correct them with a grumble and a swipe of my red pen. …but I DO laugh. Often. And without holding back. Each typo I see is a little unexpected jolt of “LOL” in the middle of a day of “BLAH” or a session of “OMGIHAVETOREADTHIS???REALLY?!”.
I think typos and autocorrects give us all a little mental break, even if we have to go back and fix them. It’s fun to realize everyone’s still human!
Examples of Typos that Make Me Laugh
For each of these, click the image for a larger picture.
Hilarious (and somewhat accurate, considering the state of Myspace?) autocorrect.
Autocorrect + lots of win in reply. XD
So…much…fail…can’t breathe from laughing at the multiple autocorrects!
When I taught 7th grade Language Arts, one of the biggest complaints I heard from my students was “Why are there so many WORDS for everything, when a lot of ’em mean the same thing?” My response: “These words don’t always mean EXACTLY the same thing.” And then I went and taught a lesson on connotation–the shades of meaning hidden in words.
Why Connotation is Important
Connotation gives writing a subtle descriptive power, without which most stories would fall flat. The choice of exactly the right word is like an artist choosing just the right shade of red or blue for a painting–the wrong shade can make the whole painting look “off” to the viewer’s eye, just as the wrong word choice can give listeners or readers a wrong impression. It might be a little detail, but it’s important!
In my writing, I often hunt for synonyms of words whose concepts I use quite frequently–for instance, the word “said” is a big thorn for me, because I don’t want my writing to sound “like an echo chamber” (which one of my graduate school professors told me my writing resembled–GRR). These days, it seems I’m always struggling to find a word I can use in place of “said,” but often there isn’t any really effective substitute. Nothing just SAYS “said” like “said.” (If that makes any sense…LOL!)
This, plus reading lots of other people’s writings about having the same difficulty, led me to think about writing with synonyms in general. When we choose synonyms for words we are using more often, we can often get tricked into thinking the synonyms mean EXACTLY the same thing as the word we are replacing–like my 7th graders thought. That, however, is definitely not the case.
An Example: The Word “Said”
Take the various synonyms and sorta-synonyms for “said”, as a convenient example (many thanks to Thesaurus):
add, affirm, allege, announce, answer, assert, break silence, claim, come out with, communicate, conjecture, convey, cry, declare, deliver, disclose, divulge, estimate, express, flap, gab, give voice, guess, imagine, imply, jaw, judge, lip, maintain, make known, mention, mutter, opine, orate, perform, pronounce, put forth, put into words, rap, read, recite, rehearse, relate, remark, render, repeat, reply, report, respond, reveal, rumor, speak, spiel, state, suggest, tell, utter, verbalize, voice, yak
WOW! Did you know there were THAT many apparent synonyms for just SAYING something? I sure didn’t, until I researched it. And yet, all these words don’t mean EXACTLY the same thing as “said.” They all do mean that something was spoken aloud, but beyond that, there are many shades and tones of meaning:
Implies that the person has already said something before this, or is adding to another person’s statement
Implies a positive rather than negative response to a question
Implies a forceful or accusatory tone of voice
Implies a loud tone of voice, but not necessarily an angry shout
Implies a statement that simply answers another person’s question
Break Silence/Voice/Come Out With:
Implies a statement made after a long silence by other people
Communicate/Convey/Express/Put Into Words/Speak:
Implies a statement made over distance (like phone or email) or spoken in a neutral tone of voice
Implies an opinion spoken without evidence
Implies frustration or outrage, or even desperation
Implies a formal speech or structured words
Implies a quiet or possibly conspiratorial tone of voice
Implies a statement full of educated guesses or opinions
Implies light or small talk, not of much importance
Implies a spoken opinion which was either held back for a long time, or has been silently held by many other people in attendance
Implies an opinion expressing “what-if” situations, fantasy
Means the statement has a hidden meaning or obscure connotation
Implies comments that are rude or false (i.e., “paying lip service” or “getting lippy with someone”)
Implies a casual tone of voice, maybe an offhand comment
Implies resentment or a sotto voce (under the breath) comment
Implies a firm tone of voice, not casual in any regard
Implies comments or questions that are being practiced
Implies speech that is given to an authority figure
Implies speech that is part of a sales pitch or otherwise overly practiced story
Implies speech that is intended to be persuasive
And This is Just One Example of Connotation!
Looking at this list might be a little daunting, but it truly shows how diverse English can be, in terms of giving dialogue a little color and life. You can change the tone and mood of a sentence just by changing “remarked” to “suggested,” or by changing “mention” to “convey.” It gives your work subtle dimension, like using a pencil to shade a character’s face so that it appears 3-D on a page.
Including Connotation in Your Own Work
When you’re hunting for the right word, it really does help to keep a thesaurus nearby (either in paper form or by searching Thesaurus.com). It might seem like a writer’s cliche, but it does help with crafting better prose and poetry, just like gazing at a palette full of colors helps an artist choose just the right one for a part of their painting. Look up the word you think you want to use, and you might find one in the list that fits your needs even better!