The first lesson in Introductory Logic discusses several different purposes for defining terms, one of which is to “increase vocabulary.” This is meant in two or three senses.
First, when a student first learns the meaning of a word, such as learning that apiary means ‘a bee house’, his vocabulary has been increased. He has added a new word to the thousands he has access to. Increasing a child’s vocabulary like this is an essential part of his education, in every subject he studies.
Second, when a new word (or a new meaning to an existing word) is added to a language it is given a stipulative definition, until such a word gets generally adopted. This can happen in many ways, such as when an author introduces a new word in his book, and stipulates a definition for it. For example, in his book The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis takes the Chinese word Tao and gives it this stipulative definition: “The doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false.” This word has become part of the vocabulary of many people who have read and discussed Lewis’s book.
Here are ten new words that have recently been added into English (and perhaps into your own personal vocabulary):
Afterparty : Social gathering which takes place after a party, concert, or other event
App : Computer program designed for use on a mobile digital device
Brexit : Departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union
Crowdfunding : Raising money by getting many people to make a small contribution
Emoji : Small digital image used to express an idea or emotion
Meh : Interjection used to express indifference
Photobomb : Intrude into the background of a photograph just before it is taken
Selfie : Photograph that one has taken of oneself
Troll : Person who is provocatively rude or insulting on the Internet
Unfriend : Remove (someone) from a list of friends or contacts on a social networking site.
It can be fun for students to invent their own words and definitions, or to share words that are used within the confines of their immediately family. In our house, a “ninker” is a small, difficult to remove item that prevents the opening of a drawer.
My favorite stipulated word from a student is “to smangle,” meaning to rub the top of someone’s head with an open palm (especially if they have a crew cut). This would mean that smangle and noogie are species of the genus, “to rub someone’s head”!
Do you have any stipulated words to share from your students or your family? Share in the comments!