Non-words that 'should be' words.

This being the SD, I don’t think I’m the only one who has spent a significant portion of their life consulting dictionaries and encyclopedias when confronted with unfamiliar words. In the past couple of years however, I’ve taken a proactive approach to this sort of research in a concerted effort to expand my vocabulary. Now, as I understand more words, I find myself guessing at their various forms, based upon words of similar construction, which occasionally leads me to intuit a word that doesn’t actually exist, but, to my mind, seems entirely rational. To whit-


I looked up both of these ‘words’, only to be somewhat crestfallen when neither appeared on or in my hardcover MW, and that the proper words, respectively were ‘franticness’ and ‘obdurateness’. There are others, but these two (in my completely unqualified opinion) merit serious consideration by the powers that be for entry into the English language. My chief qualm with the words they ‘should’ replace is the terminal syllable; to me, the suffix '-ness’, unless totally unavoidable, is awkward to the point of vulgarity.

I wrote these ‘words’ down a number of months ago and mostly forgot about them, then suddenly realized that I had joined the SDMB and was thus surrounded by like-spirited nerds who might possibly have their own pet corruptions or bastardizations. So I’m asking two things;

  1. Do you know any non-words that you feel should be words?
  2. Is their a person more qualified than myself would could expound upon the linguistic/etymological merits or failures of the words I’ve ‘invented’?

If these non-words actually exist, please feel free to make sardonic jokes about my lack of research skills and generally flawed weltanschauung. That is all

Even though it is just a copyright trap, I think “esquivaliance” (the willful avoidance of one’s responsibilites) is a very cool word, and is much nicer-sounding than “procrastination,” which I assume is the same thing.

You’re deriving words. Adding suffixes to change their part of speech. The reason they’re not in the dictionary is that they’ve not fallen into common use, or they’re not commonly used enough to merit an entry, or even a footnote.

These folks seem to think franticness is the word you were searching for when you chose franticity. Same deal with obdurance/obdurateness. I don’t know how many words change from -ate to -ance, keeping the letters before, as you’ve demonstrated with obdurance. Usually it’s insure+ance = insurance, or endure+ance = endurance.

The -icity suffix isn’t all that popular. What else is there in common use? Electricity? A Police album? Pedanticity? Romanticity? You’re just using uncommon derivational rules.

If you’re looking for a noun form of “obdurate,” then why not use “obduracy”?

I’ve always thought “observative” should be a word.

My brother came up with “ludicrity”, because “ludicrousness” is too long and clumsy. I thought “impulsivity” was a word, by my spellchecker disagrees.

I prefer “observatious.”

Glomerous, from glom.

I wasn’t aware obduracy was a word either-under the obdurate entry, lists obdurateness as the noun form, although they do have a stand alone entry for obduracy. I’ll adjust my worldview accordingly, and BTW, Rubystreak, you’ve just earned your Ignorance Fighting merit badge. <Golf clap>


The Atlantic Monthly has a column called “Word Fugitives” in every issue, and fulfills exactly the purpose of this thread.

Two words that would come in very handy to me would be solidary and integritous, as adjective forms of “solidarity” and “integrity.” (Actually, several dictionaries include the word “solidary,” but it’s terribly rare and I think most people would see it as a typo for “solidarity.”

The French already have adjectives: “solidaire” and “intègre.” There’s even a political party called Québec solidaire. Mercifully, in English we just call it Québec Solidaire.

Meaning what (presumably territory that’s not covered by “observant”)?


No it means the same thing as observant. :slight_smile: I did not get from the OP that we had to have a reasoned well thought out cogentative argument.

Ever been in the millitary? Just try telling someone to “orient” their map and watch all the blank stares, then tell them to “orientate” it. Some words just sound right, even when they are not. (not that “orientate” sounds right now that I am no longer in the millitary)

Technically I’m not a linguist/etymologist, I’m just a linguistics major, so take this with a grain of salt.

The general consensus among linguists the world over is that no authority gets to decide what is a word and what isn’t, in any given language*. Language is an organic thing, and it evolves as the societies tied to it change. The layman’s notion that consulting one dictionary or another will prove that something “is a word”, is thoughtful but misguided. Again, I’m no expert, but if you’re looking for a litmus test, this is a good one: Can you think of three sentences with that word that virtually every native English speaker would understand? (We’ll forget about regional slang, for the argument’s sake.) Of course, you’d also expect something that “is a word” to be widely used already, but that will get us nowhere in this thread.

As for “franticity”–again, I’m certainly not the referee here, but it sounds to me like it could be a word. Everyone can figure out what it means just by looking at it out of context. Seems a little awkward–try slipping “I was surprised by Western Union’s franticity” into a conversation sometime–but it’s perfectly clear.

As for “obdurance”, I had to look up “obdurateness” to even find out what it meant, and you know what? If you search for “obdurate” or “obdurateness” on Google, you get a screenful of dictionary and thesaurus pages–no actual uses of the word are readily apparent. If the entire Web doesn’t even think to use these two “real words”, it’s hard to make a case that most English speakers would understand yet another mutation of it.

  • Some languages, like Spanish, do have a governing body that sets the rules, decides what words are real and what words aren’t, etc. Nobody disputes their legitimacy, but the reality is that the “official” Spanish coming out of Madrid has little bearing on the “real” Spanish spoken on the streets of Havana (or Buenos Aires, or Mexico City, or Bogota, etc.)

Of course it’s a word. You added an -iv to the noun “impulse” (we’re ignoring the spelling changes here, they’re not important) to get the adjective “impulsive”, then you added an -ity to “impulsive” to get another noun, “impulsivity”. That’s a perfectly legal derivation in English and everyone knows what it means.

If “orientate” is the word that got the message across, how is it not “right”?

While reading a review of a Cynthia Rothrock movie called Undefeatable the reviewer noted that the title isn’t a real word. Huh.

Hah, you can’t draw me into one of those prescriptivist vs. descriptivist thingies…

justbecauseicangetamessageacrossdoesnotmeanitisaword. Or do you suggest that the letters preceedding this sentence make a word?

Here are a couple of things I found in the online OED.

“obdurance” is defined as “= obduracy”, with fewer cites given than for “obduracy”. Earliest cite 1606, most recent cite from 1983 in the Times of London.

“ludicrosity” is tagged “rare”, with only 2 cites from 1856.

I love the online OED.

Awesome-I didn’t really want to let that one go, although it appears I ‘invented’ it about 400 years too late. Can’t win 'em all.