Confession: this is an edited version of a post I originally wrote years and eons ago for another blog that I have since trashed. I’m throwing the #tbt hashtag on it and bringing it back. After all, when a wannabe-writer tells you that she is genetically predisposed to making-up words and/or believing in the undeniable existence of non-words, you have to wonder if anything she ever produces will make one jot or tittle of sense. I’m still wondering, too, but felt you should be warned in the meantime.
Up until college I knew “friffle” as a word bandied about by my family to denote a piece of lint, fuzz, or rogue thread that was attached somewhere it shouldn’t be – like a sweater, blanket, rug, etc. That was it. That was a “friffle,” and it was used so frequently and with such authority and understood meaning that I never questioned it. It was a perfectly acceptable word, just like “booger” or “butter.”
When my best friend in college questioned the very existence of the word I jumped to its defense. She knew several languages, but what were the odds that she knew all the words in each of them? Then she went to a Model UN competition and honorably defended the word (I suspect more out of loyalty to me than certainty of its existence) but was ultimately convinced that it was, in fact, not a word. Drat the dictionary.
She brought the news carefully to me. And wisely so. This completely upended my linguistic foundation. What other words were I tossing around that were familial treasures but that did not even stretch to colloquial comprehension? I started to mark my conversations carefully, but did not find any other serious offenders. And then I had children and, for reasons unknown to me, I started calling toes “tootsies” and teeth “zoobers.” Those had high chances of being non-words, too. Who do I think I am? The next Dr. Seuss?
You may think that the word “friffle” sounds like a cross between “frazzled” and “trifle.” It does. Long before “ginormous” and “funtastic” made their marks on the American English lexicon, my family was smooshing words and giving meaning to nonsense sounds with the best of them. And if ” on fleek” can make it as a “thing”, then I’m going to keep holding out hope for “friffle” as a word.
My new favorite word-scrunch is “disastrophe.” My 4-yo used it a few weeks ago, and I celebrated her clear word-making-prowess – “Ah, she has the gift!” I thought. A couple days later I overheard her tell her dad that she heard it on My Little Pony. If anyone needs me, I’ll be looking up “gullible” in the dictionary – someone said that word wasn’t in there.
Somebody – anybody – tell me you have made-up words in your lexicon that complete strangers would properly denounce as legitimate.