Where new words come from

Official sources, like dictionaries, only document currant usage. New words don't originate from above, but ordinary people, spreading words that hit the right combination of useful, and catchy.

Kory Stamper, lexicographer and author of Word by Word, expounds a bit more on dictionaries and the role they play with words:

“Many people believe that the dictionary is some great guardian of the English language, that its job is to set boundaries of decorum around this profligate language like a great linguistic housemother setting curfew. Words that have made it into the dictionary are Official with a capital O, sanctioned, part of Real and Proper English. The corollary is that if certain words are bad, uncouth, unlovely, or distasteful, then folks think that the dictionary will make sure they are never entered into its hallowed pages, and thus are such words banished from Real, Official, Proper English. The language is thus protected, kept right, pure, good. This is commonly called “prescriptivism,” and it is unfortunately not how dictionaries work at all. We don’t just enter the good stuff; we enter the bad and ugly stuff, too. We are just observers, and the goal is to describe, as accurately as possible, as much of the language as we can” (pg 35).

At the heart of it all, it is us - the people - who create language. And this makes sense because like clothing, it's a form of expression and identity. And like clothing, it is ever evolving and molding to who we are, and who we wish to be. 

The question is though, which comes first? The chicken or the egg? Do the words help define and create our identity, or does our identity define and create the word? 


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  The Language of Love: When English words aren't enough  :  What Literature is for