Most good punsters know that the English language is replete with words–more-so than most languages, in fact. So vast is the reservoir of words that nobody uses all of them. After all, many words are very technical in nature, and will only be used by those in that field. Many other words have been mostly forgotten and/or replaced by new words. Still others may be limited by geography.
Nevertheless, it seems English speakers are constantly inventing new words or else assigning new meaning to existing words. For example, I personally remember when the opposite of “Epic” was “Short story.” Now it seems to be something else.
The result of this process is that the English language has become somewhat cluttered and confused. This presents an enormous challenge to people who try to learn English as a second language–or, for that matter, as a first language. On the other hand, it’s a great boon for punsters; it’s also handy for lyricists, who can usually count on finding some combination of words that fit the rhyme and meter of whatever they happen to be writing.
Many years ago now, the Washington Post ran a contest for readers to come up with the best new word by only changing one letter. The results were quite good, and included new words like Giraffiti (graffiti placed very high up) and Innoculatte (taking coffee intravenously when you’re running late).
Of course the contest is long since over by now; but I’ve been doing some thinking, and I’d like to add a few of my own suggestions. For example:
Antidope–The cure for being exposed to idiocy.
Antihisstamine–A drug that helps a person repel snakes.
Boracle–A person whose pronouncements are sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but always uninteresting.
Dromedairy–Where you get camel’s milk.
Dromediary–A record of a camel’s life, from the point of view of the camel.
Effervescience–An awareness or knowledge of froth and fizzing, especially in the context of soft drinks. (“How was I to know that Dr. Pepper bottle would fizz over like that? I’m not effervescient, you know.”)
Epiphony–The realization that your previous realization about life, the universe, and everything doesn’t pass the reality test.
Moanitor–A device used to listen in on people’s complaints.
Pelatone–The sound made by a large pack of bicyclists as they pass.
Sans-culatte–A term used by people who regularly buy expensive and ritzy coffee beverages to describe people who don’t.
Shadenfreude–A perverse pleasure taken in the quantity of light received (or not received) by someone else’s yard, especially compared to the amount received by one’s own yard.
Slawn–A small field, usually adjacent to a house, planted with decorative cabbage.
Swimp–A pathetically inadequate marsh or wetland.
Telegrim–Very bad news delivered by wire.
Woet–Someone who only writes poetry on depressing topics.
Of course there’s always the chance that someone may have coined these before I did. Feel free to add your own (but please keep them family-friendly).