Wednesday, October 17, 2007


A few days back, I ran a post with the title, Slippage. As it turns out, this word does not mean what one would automatically assume it means (that is, if one does not number in the 4% of the population actually familiar with this word). Apparently, slippage is the difference between the estimated broker fee and the actual charge the broker hits you with.

Even had I been aware of this arcane definition, I would still have used this particular word in the context I did. Why? Because I can.

I'm allowed to make up my own definitions for words; I'm even allowed to make up a word out of whole cloth. That's what us writer-types do. As a busy and important publishing professional, I certainly don't always have time to sit and scratch my head while I come up with the already-existing perfect word or phrase. And because of slippage, even if I had the time, there's no guarantee I could actually put my hands on it.

In fact, many of your favorite words are probably the direct result of a writer somewhere being too lazy or stoned to get out of the chair and fetch the thesaurus. The problem, of course, with making up your own words--especially if you are like me and have a hard time keeping the words you really do know corralled in your head--is that you are as likely as not to forget its made-up meaning the moment you hit the return key.

Fortunately, if it's a really good word, somebody else will glom onto it and you can derive the meaning of your own word from someone else's context. If you're really lucky, Tommy Lee Jones will use your word in his next movie and ta-da!--it's part of the national lexicon. It's just a short hop from there to realizing that you would be perfectly happy to never, ever hear that word again.

But when my self-imposed deadline looms large, Material World Girl hasn't posted anything from which I can steal, and my friend Tawana is phoning first thing in the am to say, "New post, please," I find myself wondering if I will again be able to come up with two good words (real or imagined) to string together. Those are the days when I'm waiting--along with everyone else--to see what words I'm going to say today.

And hope that today isn't one of those days when only a certain word will do.

photo, David Kirby

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thank goodness slippage meant that! All I could come up with was some gross CSI technical definition of when the skin sloughs off.