Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Validatable" and Other Fun Non-Words

By Darvell Hunt

I work for a company that produces educational software. The other day, I finished up some software that needed validating, which is the term we use for confirming that the software works as it should and does not contain bugs.

In our morning meeting, I was discussing the difficulty of testing my current project, but said that I thought it would be validatable when complete.

One of my co-workers smiled at me and said, "Validatable? Is that even a word?"

I smiled back and prompty returned, without skipping a beat, "Well, if you understand what it means, how can it not be a word?" I suppose I got the intended response, because they laughed, but in truth, I was only half-joking.

Is validatable a word? Well, it's not in my dictionary, so I suppose not, but I DID find it while Googling (another fine example a "non-word" that everybody understands). In any case, other people seem to know what validatable means, even though, technically, it's not a word.

Writers seem to be possess more liberties in writing than others--even if those liberties are self-granted. More than once I have created words in my writing and used them as if they were real words--but this practice has become acceptable in fiction, because we fiction writers get to write how people talk, not necessarily how they SHOULD talk. If somebody, somewhere, uses a particular non-word, and our character knows what it means, it makes sense to use it.

In some cases, the words we make up--like validatable--are more obvious than others, but that doesn't make the more-obscure ones any less acceptable, if we set them up right. I'm currently trying to market a fantasy/science-fiction novel for middle-grade readers in which I've used words like BLOOG and WOOGLET. Their meaning is not apparent at first, but becomes obvious later on, and as the story progresses, they get used as commonly as real words.

Words are the media by which we tell stories. I think it makes sense to compare them to the paints that a painter mixes to get just the right color and texture. Wordplay can be a fun focus for writers who like to fiddle with the core elements of writing--which is a pretty good description of me.

So, bloog, flooped the wooglet in Squeed's yarp. See? (This is actually a quote from my current work in progress, "There's an Alien in my Head.")

1 comment:

Jolene Perry said...

Yep, spell check and I have words once in a while - kinda and wanna - cuz ya know - we likey those words.