Words From a Lexicographer: Erin McKean on the More Language Changes

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Erin McKean thinks she might be a ultracrepidarian as she closed out the .GLOBAL Keynote Hall on Tuesday afternoon; that’s someone who’s presumptuous and offers advice or opinions beyond one’s sphere of knowledge. That’s because she’s a lexicographer, and not a domainer. But as a lexicographer, she had far more knowledge to offer the NamesCon Global audience that one might think.

Launching into one of the best keynotes of the conference, Erin (who founded the largest dictionary in the world that “nobody has ever heard of,” Wordnik) discussed how new words (known as “neologism”) are created. The most common ways include stealing them from other languages, compound existing words in order to create new ones, back-formation, and allowing existing words to evolve.

But how do these new words stick? Because surely, not all new words do. Relevance is an important measure. Erin introduced the acronym said to think of FUDGE, something developed by Allan Metcalf, author of Predicting New Words: The Secrets of Their Success.

Frequency of use
Diversity of users and situations
Generation of other forms
Endurance of concept

You may be thinking how this all relates to domaining—but domains are words, after all. You look at a domain and maybe create a new word by adding affixes or suffixes, and maybe you’ll be breathe new meaning into them for an effective and valuable domain.

Want more from Erin’s keynote? Download the NamesCon Trend Report! We’re taking notes so you don’t have to. Major keynote and panel sessions will be summarized into bullet points and key calls-to-action, and packaged into a PDF so you can keep your total focus on the speaker on stage. Sponsored by: .GLOBAL

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