Wondrous words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love. It’s hosted at the BermudaOnion’s Weblog. so head over there to see how you can participate.
I didn’t find any new words this week in my reading, but something I have been reading reminded me of some interesting words or languages invented by authors in some of their books.
Currently I am reading The Red Queen Dies: A Mystery by Frankie Y. Bailey. It has been a very good read so far and as I get near the end I’m no closer to working out who the serial killer is, which is good, because it means it hasn’t been predictable. The book has lots of literary references, some obvious, some perhaps not so. As you may guess from the title, there are a lot of Alice in Wonderland references, but there are also references to The Wizard of Oz and Lolita, among others.
What got me thinking about invented words and languages was when one old lady in the book was beaten up by a gang of young people who called themselves ‘droogies’. I recognised the reference right away, which was later confirmed in the book when it was mentioned that they called themselves this in honour of the thugs in Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange. This got me onto my train of thought of authors who have invented words/languages in their writing.
Anthony Burgess, who invented the Nadsat mode of speech for A Clockwork Orange was in good company. Other famous authors who have done likewise include George Orwell, who invented Newspeak in 1984, and J.R,R. Tolkien, who invented at least five languages for his The Lord of the Rings series and its associated books.
I’ve read A Clockwork Orange a few times now, but I remember the first time I read it having a little trouble getting used to Nadsat. After a while, though, it was easy to get used to and makes the book a great and, at times, disturbing read. In giving his main characters the language of Nadsat, Burgess wanted to create something that was timeless, figuring that the slang of his day wouldn’t stand up to march of time. I think he pretty much succeeded in doing this. I find the combination of Russian and English that he used to be quite fascinating, acknowledging that, like Tolkien, Burgess was a linguist.
Some examples from the book are:
- droogs – friends
- gulliver – head
- platties – clothes
- devotchka – girl
- millicent – policeman
As you read the book, the meaning of many of the words start to become clearer. The following is from near the beginning and could cause one to want to stop there and go no further, but it does get easier the more you read:
“Our pockets were full of deng, so there was no real need from the point of view of crasting any more pretty polly to tolchock some old veck in an alley and viddy him swim in his blood while we counted the takings and divided by four, nor to do the ultra-violent on some shivering starry grey-haired ptitsa in a shop and go smecking off with the till’s guts. But, as they say, money isn’t everything.”
i have to admit that words fascinate me and I guess what all of this is leading to is that I’m going to have to read this book again soon!