ASK AUNTIE MJ: NOW YOU ARE JUST MAKING UP WORDS

lacitedamour asked you:

Is it okay for me to make up words for my novel? I have a habit of making adjectives adverbs or verbing nouns that makes the story make more sense to me, but I’m not sure if the English language allows for that.

Oh lacitedamour of my heart,

Here is a fact that people love to pull out at parties*: Shakespeare is credited with adding 2,000 words to the English language. Did you know that? Now you do.

And yes, English allows for the making up of words. We even have a word for it! Neologism. A newly coined word or phrase. But I will point out that neologism has a second meaning in psychiatry: a word used by a patient with a mental disorder that has no meaning except to that patient. 

Which is to say this: yes, you CAN make up words. Many fine novels, plays, and poems contain totally made-up words. But it is ALSO true that English is a RICH language that has grown in leaps and bounds since the time of Shakespeare. No one can actually COUNT how many there are, but the Oxford English Dictionary estimates that it is somewhere around a quarter of a million. Chances are, that word you seek ALREADY EXISTS. You also might invent something that you think makes sense, but actually is just kind of weird (see second meaning of neologism).

However, weird is often good. For example, there is JABBERWOCKY, which is almost entirely composed of nonsense words, and yet it is awesome. 

So there is no answer for this. But since Auntie MJ likes to provide some guidance, I would suggest looking to see if there is a word that might mean what you are trying to express. If you look up the word in a dictionary or a (shudder) thesaurus, you can find related and similar words.

With loving frubosity,

Auntie MJ

* Not very good parties. Also, symposiums, awkward silences, and at any gathering with more than five English and/or Theater majors in one room.