Thursday, January 17, 2013


Anonym: noun not yet coined

If neologisms are new words or expressions, synonyms are words with same (or almost) meaning, antonyms are words with opposite (or almost) meaning, what are words which are missing called? Despite its enormous inventory of words, English/American lacks words for more than just emotions, at least until new assignments are made, possibly using newly formed words. As we learned in school, and Wiktionary formalizes
(grammar) A word that can be used to refer to a person, animal, place, thing, phenomenon, substance, quality, or idea; one of the basic parts of speech in many languages, including English.
However (as previously noted regarding some bodily desires), there may be animals, places, things, phenomena, substances, qualities and ideas to which one should be able to refer but have no word assigned to them. This is quite common, particularly in the natural sciences, where new critters and such are discovered or created. For instance, the quark was chosen in 1962 to name a class of subatomic particles.

There are several ways to obtain and assign these new nouns. One is to take an existing word and assign it the new definition, as was done for quarks. For critters, plants and substances, the name is often produced by including the name of a person--the discoverer, or someone deemed worthy of honor--along with a more technical descriptive term (of the class to which the newcomer belongs). Nouns found to exist in foreign languages may be appropriated (or borrowed), such as Schadenfreude from German and umami from Japanese.  The new noun may be derived from an extant verb;  in a recent piece on "Repurposing Anthimeria," Ben Yagoda mainly discusses noun-to-verb dynamics, but does mention the verb-to-noun example "referring to someone as a good 'hire'."

A recent note in The Atlantic treats "The Many Emotions for Which English Has No Words." That title may be more striking than it would have been as "The Many Emotions Anonymous in English." (Try singing "I've been through the desert on an anonymous horse.")  Yet, it also suggests the question of what to call nouns-in-waiting: the animals, places, things, phenomena, substances, qualities and ideas which can be defined or described but are not yet named.
Whence this suggestion:

  1. (grammar) A word that could, if known, be used to refer to a person, animal, place, thing, phenomenon, substance, quality, or idea;
  2. the person, animal, place, thing, phenomenon, substance, quality or idea to which no word has been designated to refer.
Simply put, famous means to have fame, and anonymous means to lack a name, which is the same as to have a lack of name.  Ergo, anonym should mean "lack of name."

What to call a verb-to-be? 

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