One of the nice things about being an editor is that I can make up words and have more than a middling chance that some of them will be accepted into general use.
Words become accepted in a wonderfully unorganized manner in American English. Unlike the French, we don't have a national society of stuffed shirts severely limiting what is/is not considered to be an American word.
Instead, people start to use a specific collection of sounds. Somewhere along the way, someone assigns combinations of letters to those sounds, creating a word.
But that doesn't make the word into a word, an accepted part of the language.
No, for that to happen, scholars peruse the literature to see if a word has gained acceptance. They search the Internet. They check books. They search magazines. Most of all, they search newspapers.
Acting quite separately, fiercely independently, editors at newspapers large and small look at letters, news releases, quotations, even advertisements.
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''This,'' they say, ''is not a word - at least not in our newspaper, not at this time.''
So the word is banished. It never comes to the attention of the scholars who oversee our dictionaries.
''This,'' the editors might say, ''is indeed a word. It fills a need, it measures up to accepted standards of diction, spelling, style and usage, and besides, I like it. It shall be used in our newspaper from this time onward.''
And so we have recently recognized ''ringtone'' and ''spyware,'' ''biodiesel'' and ''bird flu,'' ''supersize'' and ''unibrow,'' ''drama queen'' and ''aquascape,'' according to Merriam-Webster's 2006 revision. Way back in 1806, when Noah Webster published his first dictionary, the first then-new words included ''advocate,'' ''debit,'' ''caloric,'' ''chowder,'' ''Americanize'' (Appropriate, wasn't it?) and ''velveteen.''
Why not ''procrastaxtinate?''
I just did my taxes, a week later than I had hoped to do so. ''Procrastaxinate'' does reflect a real-world situation. Most of us have procrastinated about doing our taxes. All of us understand the word. It fills a need.
Voila. I have invented a word ... perhaps.
Unhappily, there is no financial reward attached to having invented a word. Indeed, an attempt to make a word valuable, usually done by registering it as a trademark, brings nasty, officious letters from those of us who might want to use it. ''Do NOT use 'band-aid' by itself,'' says Johnson & Johnson. ''No, no. You must use it thusly: 'Band-Aid adhesive bandage.'''
Companies put a lot of time, effort and money into having their trademarked words recognized, not as words, but as trademarks, as ''official'' names for something that really has another, common name. Thus, Kleenex tissues, Jacuzzi hot tub, Google internet search engine (Betcha that one goes non-trademark rather quickly!), Photoshop photo manipulation (That one is endangered, but might survive as a trademark).
Once-trademarked words that have, alas for their originators, become common include aspirin, heroin, kerosene, even brassiere and zipper.
And how do judges determine whether a word or phrase has lost its trademark status?
They consult, among other things, newspapers. So if we allow kleenex, google, photoshop, we will be sternly warned by lawyers that we are not to do that. We should require Kleenex tissues, Google search engine, Photoshop image-manipulating software. But if enough of us use the words as common words, the lawyers' rants will be overruled, because the language evolves, with or without trademarks. Judges get to say when that happens.
Taxes, though, we always have with us.
So it was that, this past weekend, I chose a time when nobody else would be home. I made sure the extra leaves were inserted into the large dining table in our upstairs game room, and I brought extra extension cords into play for a calculator, computer, etc. I launched a computerized tax preparation program, Turbo-Tax (duly noting the trademark), and began to say bad words.
I got the calculations about half-done, and then I stopped. I ''procrastaxinated,'' preferring to watch TV for the rest of the evening.
The next day, I finished the calculations - but didn't file the return. I ''procrastaxinated'' again, in hope of remembering an additional deduction or credit.
Now, will ''procrastaxinate'' become a word?
The only way to find out will be to see how many of you, dear readers, adopt the word, and whether it spreads into other newspapers, magazines, perhaps even the White House, e.g., ''Barack! Quit procrastaxinating!''
If that happens, I am assured that my creation will be accepted - but, of course, I shall get no credit.
Not even one measly little extra tax deduction.
Denny Bonavita is the editor and publisher of McLean Publishing Co. in west-central Pennsylvania, including the Courier-Express in DuBois.