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Neologisms: from author use to dictionary entry

Anisimova Aleksandra Grigor'evna

ORCID: 0000-0003-1761-4191

Doctor of Philology

Professor of the Department of English Linguistics, Faculty of Philology, Lomonosov Moscow State University

119991, Russia, g. Moscow, ul. Leninskie Gory, 1

Tikhonova Nataliya Yur'evna

ORCID: 0000-0002-9375-2628

Lecturer, Department of Foreign Languages and Intercultural Communication, Faculty of International Economic Relations, Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation

125167, Russia, g. Moscow, Leningradskii prospekt, 49




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Abstract: This article is devoted to neologisms and their use in speech. The authors analyze various ways of the appearance of neologisms in speech, ways of their formation. The subject of research is neologisms that appear either together with new concepts, phenomena, historical figures, or when an existing lexical unit expands the old meaning or acquires a new meaning. The purpose of the article is to consider the reasons affecting the stability of neologism in speech, and to identify trends that lead neologism first to stable use in speech, and then, when it becomes a unit of language, to be included in the appropriate dictionaries. The main research methods are descriptive and analytical methods. The scientific novelty of this work lies in the fact that for the first time a number of neologisms and the specifics of their functioning in the language are considered in it. As a result of the work carried out, the reasons why most neologisms disappear from speech are investigated, only some of them fall into the dictionaries of the general literary language, and a very small number of neologisms become terms. It is established that the occurrence of neologisms depends on various social trends and economic factors. At the same time, the formation of a neologism as a unit of language, as well as its development into a terminological unit, is possible only if a number of requirements are met.


neologism, time factor, content plane, expression plane, connotation, construction model, term, terminological unit, language unit, stability

Nowadays, the world witnesses a technological and scientific revolution which impacts on all spheres of human life. When new concepts and phenomena appear, there also appears a need to coin new terms and define new notions. According to Peter Newmark, types of neologisms include new coinages, derived words, abbreviations, collocations, eponyms, phrasal words, transferred words, acronyms, pseudo-neologisms, and internationalism. English neologisms are formed by blending, generifying words, borrowing, semantic drift, compounds and compounding, affixation (agentive suffix er, and diminutive suffix ie/-y ). Neologisms have become part of our daily life. Since they are mainly generated on the internet, where people have access on a daily basis, they quickly become recurrent in speech.

Different aspects of neologisms (nature, functions, classifications, etc.) have been studied by many Russian and foreign scholars, such as, A. Ye. Bel’kova, A. A. Bragina, L. B. Gatsalova, N. Z. Kotyolova, V. V. Lopatina, A. G. Lykova, N. M. Shanskiy, Ju. S. Sorokin, Ye. A. Zemskaya, N. M. Zolotaryova, John Humbley, Marita Kristiansen, Elisa Mattiello, Peter Newmark, Fuertes Olivera & S. Nielsen.

The paper explores the reasons why certain neologisms die out and others do not; why certain neologisms become stable and transfer from units of speech to units of language; why some neologisms become registered in General language dictionaries and some – in terminological dictionaries.

The existence of neologisms in the language depends on their recurrence in speech. Thus, those neologisms which were borrowed by a terminology used to be stable neologisms. Such neologisms sooner or later become terms registered in dictionaries. Those neologisms which have not gained acceptance yet can be called unstable ones. They are used in speech but have not become recurrent and, thus, have not become units of the language and are not registered in dictionaries. Unstable neologisms can go out of use.

The first parameter to study is that of time . Logically, if a neologism was coined a good many years ago, it could be assumed that it has become stable. An example is the term republicrat, the name for both of the two major political parties in the United States, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. This term first appeared during the presidential election of 1872. The appearance of the term was connected with political and social life of America of that time: Republicans pursued an aggressive foreign policy; Democrats were for more liberal social policies and gave a more important role for government-funded social programs. “republicrat is a member of the Democratic party especially in the southern states who supports to a large extent the policy and measures of the Republican party” [Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary http://www.merriam-webster.com/].

Thus, the supposition has proved correct – time is an important factor for neologisms. However, although republicrat was coined over 150 years ago and has become a unit of language it has not become a political term.

O. S. Akhmanova states that neologisms can be words which characterize a certain generation and are related to it. For example, in the 1970-s there appeared a notion of Islamic revival that referred to a revival of the Islamic religion, greater religious devotion, stronger community feeling, a growing adoption of Islamic culture, etc. This revival was a response to the Westernization approach of governments, common in many Arabic and Asian countries earlier in the 20th century. The Islamic revival gave rise to Islamism, certain ideologies regarding Islam as both a religious and political system and declaring that modern Muslims must return to the fundamentals of their religion, and on its basis become united politically. The neologism was coined more than a hundred years later as compared to the first one, but is now registered in dozens of historical and political terminological dictionaries. Thus, not only the time aspect is important to make the neologism stable, but also its meaning, its content plane.

Another example is the neologism ownership society that describes a model of society with such main values as personal responsibility, economic liberty, and ownership of property. This term was first used by the former United States President George W. Bush in 2003 in connection with his proposals to cut taxes. Then it acquired a broader meaning. There is a quotation from George W. Bush’s speech: “We're creating... an ownership society in this country, where more Americans than ever will be able to open up their door where they live and say, welcome to my house, welcome to my piece of property”. In 2008, Barack Obama coined another term to describe such society: “George Bush called this the ownership society, but what he really meant was 'you're-on-your-own' society [Barack Obama, 2008]. This neologism was coined not long ago, and, though it is recurrent in speech, it has not yet become a unit of language.

Neologisms are also created “as a response to changed circumstances in the external world, which achieves some currency within a speech community at a particular time” [Crystal, 1992, p. 264]. Thus, for example, eco-terrorism – the neologism which refers to acts of violence committed in support of ecological or environmental causes, against people or their property.

The neologism eco-terrorism was coined in the 60-ies. Not only did it become important for the humanity, but it was coined according to a productive language model: state terrorism, quasi terrorism, antiterrorism, counterterrorism, etc. Thus, the neologism has become recurrent in speech and is now registered in dictionaries, for example, “eco-terrorism sabotage intended to hinder activities that are considered damaging to the environment; 2. political terrorism intended to damage an enemy's natural environment [Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary http://www.merriam-webster.com/].

Another example is Eurabia – a neologism coined by the writer Gisele Littman (well-known under the pen name of Bat Ye'Or) in connection with a conspiracy theory which aims to weaken European culture by “Islamising” and “Arabising” it. Though this neologism was first used in the 1970s, it is now recurrent in speech, for example, in the following titles Eurabia comes to Norway” [https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09596410.2013.783969?j], Euro-Islam v. “Eurabia”: Defining the Muslim Presence in Europe” [https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/euro-islam-v-eurabia-defining-the-muslim-presence-europe], You are now entering Eurabia” [https://www.researchgate.net/publication/240711857_You_Are_Now_Entering_Eurabia]. It cannot be called stable yet but it might become one.

More often than not, neologisms acquire new meanings. Thus, the lexical unit credibility gap, which appeared in the 1960s, described public skepticism about statements and policies of the American government on the War in Vietnam. The term credibility gap is a legacy of President Lyndon Johnson's Administration. Coined, quite possibly, by soldiers on the ground in Vietnam, the expression was seized upon by journalists back home during 1965 to express, as The Washington Post's Murrey Marder put it, “growing doubt and cynicism concerning Administration pronouncements.” Before long, the White House press office started keeping files on the credibility gap. After the Vietnam War it was used to show the discrepancy frequently existing between politicians’ public statements and reality. In the 1970s the term was used to describe Nixon’s handling of the Vietnam War. For instance, in the article “Again, the Credibility Gap ?” published in Time Nixon’s actions were criticized in the following way: “If the war is still going on next January , Candidate Richard Nixon declared in 1968, it can best be ended by a new Administration . . . neither defending old errors nor bound by the old record. A new Republican Administration will do what the present Administration has so signally failed to do: it will arm the American people with the truth ”.“Two and a half years later, President Nixon is finding that “arming” more difficult than he expected ” [Time, 1971].

Nowadays, the term is recurrently used in mass media: "The Trump administration has "a credibility gap the size of the Grand Canyon," says Washington Post columnist Max Boot, CNN, 17 September, 2019.

"They've gained a lot of credibility gap, for such support could be dramatic, as the pandemic widened Brazil's already gaping wealth gaps” states Craig Mellow, April 22, 2022.

Thus, it can be concluded that the neologism, being comparatively ‘young’, has acquired a more general meaning and is used to define any contradiction between what the government says and what the real situation is, which means that it has become a unit of language: credibility gapa situation in which the things that someone says are not believed or trusted because of the difference between what is said and what seems to be true [Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary http://www.merriam-webster.com/].

Another type of neologisms that P. Newmark singles out is “new coinages”, for example: glocalization (“globalization ” and “localization ”); it first appeared in the late 1980s to describe mutual impact of local conditions and global pressures on each other. It seems that the neologism expresses the idea which is extremely important nowadays. Indeed, it is used in speech, but it cannot be called stable. It has not become a unit of language but remains a recurrent unit of speech:




In his classification, P. Newmark also mentions derived words”, i.e. words derived from ancient Greek and Latin morphemes which were borrowed by a certain language. The term meritocracy is from Latin mereō : “earn ” + -cracy , from Ancient Greek kratos ( κράτος): strength , power ”; it stands for a political philosophy that holds power which should be vested in individuals according to merit. The neologism was coined in 1958 by the British sociologist Michael Young (1915-2002) and used in title of his book, "The Rise of the Meritocracy". In terms of the expression plane, the neologism was coined according to a productive linguistic pattern, and the content plane of the neologism demonstrates a general idea which is not either geographically or culturally bound. The neologism became stable soon after it was coined and it has become a unit of language: meritocracy:1. a system, organization, or society in which people are chosen and moved into positions of success, power, and influence on the basis of their demonstrated abilities and merit; 2. the people who are moved into such positions [https://www.etymonline.com/word/meritocracy].

Another example is the neologism hoplophobia which is coined from the Greek hoplon (ὅπλον), meaning “arms ”, and phobos ( φόβος) , meaning fear ” [http://etymologies.net/hoplophobia]. This term became recurrent in 1976-1977 to describe an “irrational aversion to weapons, as opposed to justified apprehension about those who may wield them” [Cooper, 1990, pp. 16–19]. Firearms authority and writer Colonel Jeff Cooper claims to have coined the word in 1962 to describe what he called a "mental aberration consisting of an unreasoning terror of gadgetry, specifically, weapons." Cooper attributed this behavior to an irrational fear of firearms and other forms of weaponry. Cooper's opinion was that the most common manifestation of hoplophobia is the idea that instruments possess a will of their own, apart from that of their user.

Although hoplophobia is not a phobia listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association. It is listed in The Encyclopedia of Phobias, Fears, and Anxieties, Third Edition as well as the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology.

It is now used as a medical term to define “morbid irrational fear of guns and firearms” [Segen, 2006, p. 307]. The neologism hoplophobia was coined according to a productive pattern to fill the gap in a number of the existing phobias and has a number of derivatives, such as, hoplochrism, hoplotary, hoplogical, hoplogist, hoplology, hoplophobe. It can be concluded that if a neologism meets certain criteria, it does not only become a unit of language, but a term proper. And, more often than not, an international term: хоплофобия – это боязнь оружия и неприязнь к вооруженным людям. Иногда под этим подразумевают боязнь огнестрельного оружия, но чаще говорят о страхе перед любым видом оружия [https://psycop.ru/fobii/xoplofobiya.html].

Abbreviation is another way to form neologisms. Take the abbreviation 3Ds which stands for Dirty, Dangerous and Demeaning . Often, for "dirty, dangerous and demanding" or "dirty, dangerous and difficult". This American neologism is derived from the Japanese expression 3K: kitanai , kiken, kitsui whichdescribes certain types of professions which are considered to be highly dangerous and difficult, and refers to certain kinds of labor often performed by unionized blue-collar workers. Workers in 3D professions are mainly migrant workers who are usually unskilled and uneducated and do not have appropriate experience in a certain sphere in which they have to work. Their work should be well paid due to its difficulty. However, because of a large-scale international labor migration, migrant workers agree to low wages for a 3D job in a developed country. These jobs are connected with difficult manual labor and with use of specialized machines. Numerous examples of such jobs can be found in the spheres of production and manufacturing of different kinds of things, food processing, minor works, etc. for instance, there is a top list of most difficult 3D jobs in Korea. Some of them are automatic cutting and drilling for plastic materials, manufacturing of rubber and plastic, or manufacturing of buttons.

Since this neologism has a wide meaning and application, it has become stable and recurrent in speech. Moreover, it is used internationally [https://www.wordsense.eu/3D_jobs/].

A considerable number of newly coined words and word combinations of political discourse appear on a daily basis. For example, such expressions as red states and blue states. In the early 1970s, networks like ABC, NBC, and CBS were seeking a way to demarcate which states had been won by each candidate. Since most American families had color TV sets, it was a new opportunity to show graphically which state supports which candidate. The neologisms red states and blue states are connected with the vote preferences of American residents who predominantly vote for the Republican Party (red) or Democratic Party (blue) presidential candidates. re’s a good reason why those colors were chosen for each party at the time: global precedent. In Great Britain, red had long been used to represent the more liberal party, which in this American use case were the Democrats. Blue stood in for Republicans by default, in part because the colors in contrast were striking on screen. But by the late-1980s and early 1990s, those color assignments reversed. Blue became more consistently used for Democrats and red for Republicans.

Nevertheless, it still wasn’t until 2000—the race between Democrat and Vice President Al Gore and Republican Texas Governor George W. Bush – that those colors became synonymous with the name of each party.

Eponyms are another type of neologisms. They are words derived from proper names. For instance, in American society there exist different terms connected with the names of certain outstanding politicians, for example, Reaganomics - economic policies promoted by the U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s; Bushisms - unconventional words, phrases, pronunciations, malapropisms, and semantic or linguistic errors that often occurred in public speeches of George W. Bush and of his father, also the former US president George H. W. Bush and many others.

However, during thepresidency of Barack Obama there appeared the biggest number of derivatives from his surname. For instance: Obama baby – a child conceived immediately following the 2008 election of Barack Obama; Obama change – a change that does not occur; the neologism was used in interviews by individuals frustrated with President Obama campaign slogan and promises and their implementation because the changes that he promised have not happened yet; Obama effect – the idea is that the voters state that they would vote for a black candidate to appear politically correct, however, the election outcomes become very different from the polling results prediction; Obamania – an excitement over Barack Obama winning the 2008 Presidential election; Obamanism – a neologism referring to different key catch phrases used by Barack Obama during the 2008 US presidential campaign; Obamanomics – the fiscal economic policies of Barack Obama; Obamarama – an event for lending the support to Barack Obama and his political campaign; Obamomentum – a neologism used to characterize those people who actively join Barack Obama's campaign; Obamunism – a pejorative description of Barack Obama’s stance in government and leading economic policies as being similar to communism; Obamacare is generally used by opponents of President Obama's healthcare policy who disagree with some or all of its aspects; Obamaite – (neutral) a supporter of Barack Obama; Obamacon – a neo-conservative supporter of Barack Obama; Obamanoid has a pejorative connotation of being mindless or not thinking for oneself; Obamabot – a neologism used primarily on forums as an insult to Obama supporters denoting a supporter of President Obama's policies; it has a pejorative connotation showing that Obamabots are like robots that mindlessly support the President; Obamacan – a Republican who supported democratic candidate Barack Obama in the 2008 US Presidential race but mostly for the reason to vote against Hillary Clinton, the other Democrat candidate. Today it has a pejorative connotation because being an Obamacan is considered traitorous to other Republicans.

The number of examples can be multiplied. However, it should be pointed out that although great in number these neologisms have not become stable and have not become units of the language.

Phrasal verbs converted to nouns make up another group of neologisms. As for political neologisms, phrasal verbs are rarely converted to nouns to coin new terms.

The example of a phrasal verb is the term red-baiting which means “the act of attacking or persecuting a Communist or as communistic” [ Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (http://www.merriam-webster.com/]. This neologism appeared in the 1930s as a combination of red and bait. Red was a new word to denote communists because of the red flag and also this name comes from the name of the Russian army, the Red Army. The term red-baiting was formed from the verb to red-bait .

The election of Kilgore seems to expose the limits of red-baiting on the campaign trail during the postwar era, for, when McCarthyism came up against an opponent who was able to maintain his support for liberal domestic issues while simultaneously displaying his own commitment to anticommunism abroad, its effects were minimal at best.” [West Virginia History: A Journal of Regional Studies, 2007, pp. 55 – 74].

Another group is made up of acronyms which are abbreviations formed from the initial components of a phrase or a word. The neologism McWorld was originally used to describe a rapid growth of the number of McDonald’s restaurants all over the world as a result of globalization. But later the meaning of this term was broadened and used to describe global commercialization of goods and services. Although recurrent in speech, this neologism has not been fixed in dictionaries and remains a unit of speech.

P. Newmark also singles out such group as pseudo-neologisms and points out that “any kind of neologism should be recreated; if it is a derived word, it should be replaced by the same or equivalent morphemes, if it is also phone-aesthetic, it should be given phonemes producing analogous sound effects” [Newmark, 1988, p. 143].

The structure of these neologisms is analogous to other political terms such as egalitarian or equalitarian, a person who supports egalitarianism, the political theory that all members of society have equal rights and should have equal treatment libertarian, someone who believes that people should have complete freedom to think and act as they wish [Dictionary of Politics and Government, 2004, p. 139]; majoritarian, someone who supports the view that a group should be controlled in the way decided on by the majority of its members [Dictionary of Politics and Government, 2004, p. 145], etc. The neologism meritarian comes from Michael Young's book The Rise of the Meritocracy”, 1958.

Thus, neologisms appear when there arises a particular need to define a new concept and to introduce a new notion. There are different ways to coin neologisms such as blending, generifying and specifying semantic processes, borrowing, semantic shift, compounding, creating new collocations, eponyms and acronyms. Neologisms play a great role as they are connected with new economic, political, sociological trends and changes. More often than not, certain policies, programmes, actions of outstanding politicians become a basis for new coinages. The emergence of neologisms depends on various social trends and economic factors. In order to become a unit of language a neologism should satisfy a number of requirements: it should be recurrent in speech for a certain time; it should become stable in speech before it becomes a unit of language and is fixed in dictionaries; it should not be culturally bound but it should express a general or a universal idea. In order to become a term a neologism, in addition to the requirements listed above, should be coined in accordance to a recurrent structural linguistic pattern common for a certain terminological system and should fill the gap in a certain branch of knowledge.

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