Tag: dictionary

That’s Not A Word, It’s Not In the dictionary

a dictionary
Words, words, words...
A lot of people say this. A lot of people say this to me. I like to make up words once in a whiloccasion. So let me set the record straight.

If I said it and you understood it, it’s a word.

“How dare you say such a thing! Ms. So-and-so yelled at me in 4th grade for making up a word so I won’t let anyone else do the same!” you might be thinking. Well Ms. So-and-so was wrong about such-and-such.

First, let’s get rid of this phrase: “the dictionary.”

There is no one dictionary. There are many dictionaries. Different publications with different editions and different versions with different editors. They don’t have all of the same entries. They don’t all have the exact same definitions. Each dictionary serves a purpose and is edited as such. If you consult your Webster’s College Dictionary, it might not have complex medical terms. If you look up a word in your Writer’s Dictionary you might not find old slang.

Next, “That’s not a word.”

The first definition of word in the American Heritage Dictionary (notice that I specified the dictionary I referenced) is the following:

n. A sound or a combination of sounds, or its representation in writing or printing, that symbolizes and communicates a meaning…

If you look at other definitions from that or other dictionaries I’m pretty sure that you will not find any that says inclusion in a dictionary is a criteria for being a word. I’d like to call your attention to the end of the above definition: COMMUNICATES MEANING. Here’s more evidence:

The beauty of words is that we are all in control of them: everyone who is a competent speaker of a language is able and allowed to produce new words when needed and to alter the meaning of existing ones, and as long as grammatical rules are followed these new words will be understood even by people who have never heard them before. – “What is a word?”

I’ll repeat one of my above statements. If I said it and you understood it, it’s a word.

You now have my permission to create words. Others create new words all the time. That’s how English evolves, it’s not an inflexible set of items and rules to govern them… no matter what Ms. So-and-so said. Language is a tool for communication; as many tools are it can be fun to use. So go have fun. Find a locution for the nonce. Happy neologizing!

Any questions? Feel free to share words you invented in the comments!

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The Eloquent Shakespeare

A Pronouncing Dictionary for the Complete Dramatic Works with Notes to Untie the Modern Tongue
by Gary Logan

Have you ever read one on Shakespeare’s works and not known how to pronounce a word? (If not, are you human?) Where do you normally turn? Most regular dictionaries that you might keep on your shelf only include words in modern usage; not words, names, and places that haven’t been in widespread common use in 400 years.

You could ask someone and hope they’re right. If you have a good movie or audiobook of a play you can check there and listen… but that seems like a little too much trouble for a single word.

What you need is dictionary of pronunciation (I have several) from an authoritative source. I’d say Gary Logan is one: He was the Chair of Voice and Speech at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and has worked as a voice coach for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford Shakespeare Festival, The Shakespeare Theatre Company, and several others.

There’s really no reason not to have a pronouncing dictionary if you’re an actor or director working on Shakespeare’s plays. You’re doing yourself, your company, and your audience a disservice by deciding not to check to see if you’re pronouncing a word correctly. Even if it’s not Shakespeare, and the play has difficult words, one should do their homework and look it up.

But why buy this one? It’s not the cheapest one out there so it had better be good. As a matter of fact, it is good. It might even be right for you — not all dictionaries are the same or right for everyone, I’ll have you know.

The Eloquent Shakespeare lists its pronunciations in Standard American Stage Dialect, a sort of “neutral” dialect that has no distinct regional features. It’s like the speech that most news anchors and classical actors employ while reading the news and speaking Shakespeare, respectively. This means that some of the common words may have a pronunciation that is different from the way you speak.

A feature that I enjoy is the fact that all the words are only transcribed using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). If you’ve learned IPA in theatre school, all the better. If you haven’t, there’s a key to each symbol at the bottom of every page. It’s not that hard to figure out.

The notes and introduction are very well done and informative, if you ever read them. Not everyone’s the type that reads an introduction to a dictionary but I suggest you always do. You’ll be happy you did — why have a tool when you don’t know how to use it properly? The dictionary seems to be complete. It even includes one of my favorites, honorificabilitudinitatubus! Rare or show specific words have the play in which they appear listed next to the headword. If it scans differently in different places there’s a note there to help you. There are even foreign language pronunciations of words and phrases. I know now how to pronounce Si fortune me tormente, sperato me contento.

My biggest complaint is the cover. It looks nice and pretty, but if I saw it on a shelf I would never know that I needed to have it. The whole cover looks like a really long title. Not a big deal, I can take off the dust jacket if needed. But don’t judge this book by its cover!

There are other pronouncing dictionaries out there for less, but if you are an actor, director, teacher, or other serious Shakespearean, I would recommend spending a little extra to get this nicely produced, authoritative, complete, hardcover (long-lasting), and easy to navigate resource.

The Eloquent Shakespeare: A Pronouncing Dictionary for the Complete Dramatic Works with Notes to Untie the Modern Tongue is available from Amazon.com

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Word of the day: Amain

Amain, a plain, a canail… wait a minute. That’s not how it goes.

amain adv. IPA Pronunciation: amain
at full force or speed

MESSENGER
His soldiers spying his undaunted spirit
A Talbot! a Talbot! cried out amain
And rush’d into the bowels of the battle.
– Henry VI, Part 1 (I.i)

There’s a certain economy about this word. I can easily hear it in a command, which it is used as most often. You’ll mostly find this in the Henry VI series. 8 out of 13 times it is used by Shakespeare are in one of the Henry VI plays. Wowzers.

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Word Of The Day: Whiffler

Whiffler, famous for painting a portrait of his mother. Whiffler’s Mother. Wow… that was a lame joke.

whiffler (n.) IPA Pronunciation: Whiffler
armed processional attendant

CHORUS
Behold, the English beach
Pales in the flood with men, with wives and boys,
Whose shouts and claps out-voice the deep mouth’d sea,
Which like a mighty whiffler ‘fore the king
Seems to prepare his way: so let him land,
And solemnly see him set on to London.
– Henry V (V.prologue)

To me, this word sound like it should be the name of a racket used to hit a Wiffle Ball. It doesn’t sound like what it is to me, but I suppose I’m not using my imagination to make it work. Either way this is a word that most readers and audiences are not likely to know so lets hope that the Chorus does his/her best to make sense of it for us, that a Whiffler clears the way for a procession.

Note that whiffler does have a different modern definition, in case you look it up in a modern dictionary. Today it can mean a person who frequently shifts opinions, attitudes, interests, etc. I don’t know if the definitions are at all related, but don’t get them confused!

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WOTD: Puissance

This is one of those words that some readers/listeners will come across and think “WTF mate?” I shall expound all for you now!

puissance (n.) IPA Pronunciation: Puissance
power, might, force

ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
That he should draw his several strengths together
And come against us in full puissance,
Need not be dreaded.
– Henry IV, Part 2 (I.iii)

This word is most commonly used in reference to military power, but it can be applied elsewhere as well. The pronunciation depends on the line of text. The word can be two syllables by, or can be three if the line of verse doesn’t scan out to 10 syllables without it. Some pronounce the first syllable “pyoo” some “pwee,” I’ve seen it both ways in dictionaries – sometimes both ways in the same dictionary. It sounds funny no matter how you say it so pick one.

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WOTD: Runagate

This one’s fun to use. It rolls off the tongue easily in order to use this word to badmouth someone.

runagate (n.) IPA Pronunciation: runagate
fugitive, runaway, vagabond

CLOTEN
I cannot find those runagates; that villain
Hath mock’d me. I am faint.
– Cymbeline (IV.ii)

Feel free to use this word as an insult. You’ll look mean and smart.*

*Use this word at your own risk. The Bard Blog claims no responsibility for any injuries for misuse of this word. Not recommended for use with any amount of alcohol. Please be safe.

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WOTD: Cogitation

Here’s a word not quite unique to Shakespeare, but you won’t find it in use too often.

cogitation (n.) IPA Pronunciation: cogitation
thought, contemplation

CASSIUS
Then, Brutus, I have much mistook your passion;
By means whereof this breast of mine hath buried
Thoughts of great value, worthy cogitations.
– Julius Caesar (I.ii)

This word takes some cogitation at first, but it does sort of sound like what it is right? The wheels in your head are turning – cogitation. Perfectly logical, right? If nothing else it will make you sound smarter when you use it.

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WOTD: Askance

You can’t look askance from this word. You’ll come across it sooner or later!

askance (adv., v.) IPA Pronunciation: askance
(v.) to turn aside, to divert
(adv.) sideways, surreptitiously OR with disdain, maliciously, scornfully

PETRUCHIO
Thou canst not frown, thou canst not look askance,
Nor bite the lip, as angry wenches will,
– The Taming of the Shrew (II.i)

The word is used in the works only as an adverb as far as I can tell, except for in The Rape of Lucrece, though you probably won’t read that. But you should!

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WOTD: Diadem

I don’t know exactly what it is about this word, but it’s one of my favorites.

diadem (n.) IPA Pronunciation: Diadem
crown

HAMLET
A cutpurse of the empire and the rule,
That from a shelf the precious diadem stole,
And put it in his pocket!
– Hamlet (III.iv)

The word just has such a regal sound about it. Crown sounds authoritative, but diadem is royal.

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WOTD: Hoise

Bring in da hoise, brink in da funk. Wait, you can’t bring in a verb. That makes no grammatical sense but it sounds cool, right? Shakespeare could probably pull it off. I’m no Shakespeare.
hoise (v.) IPA Pronunciation: hoise
hoist, remove

BUCKINGHAM
And all together, with the Duke of Suffolk,
We’ll quickly hoise Duke Humphrey from his seat.
– Henry VI, Part 2 (I.i)

When this word is used in the above context it’s fun to say. Think about the seriousness of the action and what the sound of the word does to its meaning instead of saying “remove Duke Humphrey from his seat.” Hoise has more poise. Maybe. I just wanted to make that rhyme. You decide for yourself.

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