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May I have a word: Of lexicoins, misnamers, and changelingos

The delightful coinages that result from adding, subtracting, or changing letters in familiar words.

What would you call a Bullwinkle in tears? A lachrymoose, of course. Pictured, "The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle," starring Rocky the flying squirrel and his moose pal.NICKELODEON

Last time, the challenge I gave you was to add one letter to an existing word, subtract one, or change one to create a new word, and define the result. I also hinted strongly that you’d get extra-credit points for such words that name such words.

About as many of you nailed the challenge as missed the mark by a letter or two. I have to admit, though, that some of the near misses, mainly words for such words, are pretty good.

I especially liked bellapropism, from Mark Ellison, of Atkinson, N.H.; spellbend, from Jack Tuttle of Hyde Park; [sic] puns, from Jack Mingo; lingtwistics, from Rick Woods, of Yarmouth Port; and lexiconcoctions from Samuel Jay Keyser, of Cambridge.


Some people submitted words that, according to me, deserve a place in a second edition, if there ever is such a thing, of the book that inspired this challenge, “Bloom’s Bouquet of Imaginary Words.”

Marcia Cooper, of Newton, came up with immediater, “the opposite of procrastinator,” which I would love to be able to use in my personal life to distinguish myself from certain people I know.

Judy Anglin, of Dorchester, sent me medicaution, which she defined as “the speed talk and tiny print used to convey potential adverse effects of advertised medicines,” and gromotion, for “the expansion of job responsibility without change to compensation, rank, or position within the organization.” Will someone please give this woman the raise she clearly deserves?

Laura Dziorny, of Charlestown, submitted guardening, meaning “keeping unfriendly critters away from your plants.”

Marc McGarry, of Newton Highlands, proposed sintillating, meaning “thrillingly naughty,” and scorrupt, meaning “to persuade an athlete to shave points.”

Nelson Checkoway, of Ogunquit, Maine, observed that “a very self-important environmental advocate might be known as an ecotist.”

And Bob Mangano, of Natick, was a veritable fount of ideas. He proposed, among other neologisms, “Bachstory: Johann Sebastian Bach’s autobiography,” “Naptune: the Roman god of lullabies,” and “lachrymoose: Bullwinkle on an especially trying day.”


As for inventions that name such inventions, the previously mentioned Laura Dziorny, of Charlestown, suggested: “A potential name for the overall idea could be misnamers.” Judy Matthews, of Haverhill, thought up switchcraft, and Steve Poltorzycki, of Arlington, lexicoin.

And Jessica Adler Kuznick, of Arlington, offered changelingo.

I’m impressed with all of these, and I think both Steve’s and Jessica’s coinages would be fairly easy for readers or listeners to catch their drift. But Jessica’s is cuter, so I’m designating Steve runner-up and awarding Jessica bragging rights. Good job, ye!

Now, what’s next?

How about we follow in the footsteps of a different word-coining book, “The Meaning of Liff”?

The authors of that and its sequel, “The Deeper Meaning of Liff,” are Douglas Adams, of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” fame, and his friend and sometime colleague John Lloyd.

In 1978, while the two of them were on vacation together in Corfu, they began to play an old school game (oh, those English!), repurposing existing place names as words for “things that there aren’t any words for yet.”

The books define Liff itself, in reality a village near Dundee, Scotland, as “a book, the contents of which are totally belied by its cover.”

A Liff-world word that I’ve often wished I could use with restaurant staff is Ludlow. In reality, it’s a market town in Shropshire, England (and, of course, a village in Vermont), but in Liff, it’s “a wad of newspaper, folded table-napkin or a lump of cardboard put under a wobbly table or chair to make it stand up straight.”


That’s one of the more useful Liff words. Papple, a village in East Lothian, Scotland, became “to do what babies do to soup with their spoons” — which I doubt would ever come up in conversation unless one purposely acted it out in order to use it.

My new challenge for you is to similarly repurpose New England place names. We have a lot of promising ones. I mean, Bonny Eagle, Lubec, and Meddybemps, Maine? Errol, Vt.? Boscawen and Lempster, N.H.? Barnstable, Seekonk, and Tolland, Mass.? I could go on — but so can you, and I hope you will.

Send your, um, repurpositions to me at Barbara.Wallraff@globe.com by noon on Friday, Oct. 14, and kindly include where you live. Responses may be edited.

Barbara Wallraff is a writer who lives in Cambridge.