Inventing Words

I tend to be a stickler for the English language sometimes.  I hate when people use incorrect forms of words that have, since being so commonly misused, been added to the dictionary.  However, the English language is also very limiting in some ways and totally illogical in others.  Even Shakespeare invented his own words, so I have no problem now and then adding to my vocabulary words that my family has developed when the English language has left them wanting.

Below is a list of a few words that, uttered once in a moment of hilarity or desperation, have now become a part of my regular vocabulary:

Epis: this one was invented by my mom in a moment where she couldn't find the correct English word or phrase to suit her.  She had said something like, "And what did I get?" And there was a pause.  I assume she could have also said "Diddly squat!"  But that isn't what her mind reached for in that moment.  Instead, she said, "Epis!"  And we all knew what it meant when she said it.  And now, in our family, when we have zero, zilch, nothin', or ain't got no, we almost always now refer to it as epis!

Jahm: this one is so old that we aren't quite sure how it started, but we believe it was started by my brother.  It began with the phrase "let's jam."  And from there, my brother fancied it up to be "le jahm!"  Perhaps, he thought, by saying it like this it sounds spicier!  Well, it eventually got shortened to just jahm and now, even our dogs know this command.  Jahm means, "let's go!"  When I say it to my dogs, they get up and follow me.  So, now it has not only entered the English language in my home, but my dogs also understand it.

Pema: this one is thirty years old and was started by my sister.  As kids, we all said weird things when we meant a different word.  I know as a very young toddler, I loved my swing, but I called it a gwang, but that never caught on.  My sister, however, referred to her spoon as a pema.  She had a gravelly voice and would say, "Give me pema!"  This made it into our vocabulary.  Many years later, my husband and I were living in a heavily Spanish speaking area.  He had heard us call a spoon a pema for years, and we never explained, and he never asked.  Well, he came home from work and said very indignantly to me, "Pema is not Spanish for spoon!"  And I just looked at him and said, "I know.  What happened to you today?"  We never did hear the story, but I have some strong suspicions about how that went down!

I could probably think of a dozen other words invented through funny stories, moments of misspeaking, or something we inherited from childhood.  There is an odd hypocrisy within myself where I will balk at someone misusing a common English word or phrase, and yet I will gleefully use my own invented words in casual conversation.  I chalk this up to one of the quirks of being a writer, knowing my motive is always to communicate in a way others can understand or relate to - while at the same time knowing full well I don't do this perfecly very often!


  1. I laughed out loud at the Pema story! Also, we can't forget this gem, "infactually I sent you the focuments" HAHAHAHA


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