It’s a little-known perk of writing that writers get to do something truly remarkable. I’m not talking about the godlike power to create empires of the mind, to breathe life into characters and to spawn images in the minds of our readers. Nor am I talking about the Herculean ability to overcome the blank, intimidating expanse of the blank page. I’m talking about a quieter power, but a greater one.
Writers get to invent words.
This is a subtle power, one that can’t and shouldn’t be waggled around like a magic wand in a seven-book epic about teenage wizards (if ever there were a metaphor). It’s a power that should be practiced with care, delicacy, and great reservation. It’s the power to change the way people think and communicate, if you use it right.
Imagine where we’d be without words like “schadenfreude?” (The Germans are really good at this.) “Kerfuffle?” “Google?” Seriously, imagine your life without Google and try to tell me that the power to create words isn’t incredible and earth-shattering.
Sure, English is chock-full of words already. Good ones, too. Great ones, even. Still, there are those times when you’re casting about for just the right word, one that perfectly encapsulates the thing you’re talking about, one that leaves no room for confusion, one that immediately creates meaning in the mind of your reader, even if they’ve never heard that word before. And the problem is, as broad and expansive as the language is, we just don’t have words for every situation. ‘Twere impossible to have a word for every situation locked and loaded in our memory at any time. Sometimes you just have to make one up.
I do this all the time, and most of the words suck. They’re good for one use only, and once used, they disappear down the gullet of memory and are never seen again. Once in a while, though, you hit on a winner: a word that’s useful, memorable, and catchy enough to merit use by others. Because communication is a two-way street… it’s no good making up an entire lexicon of new words here in my lair if nobody else sees fit to use the words, too.
But today, a breakthrough. A word that might — might — catch on.
I didn’t even make it on purpose. I was just trying to alliterate, and I accidentally created a word that’s already resonated with two readers here in my sphere. Maybe it’s resonating with you, too, and you don’t even know it.
A thing I do a lot here at the blarg is ramble. I have a way of overstating and overthinking things, and I end up going on at length… possibly longer than is necessary. I own that. It’s a fault, but it’s fun for me, and this is my sandbox. I also love to complain, again, probably more than is necessary or healthy. And what do you get when you combine the two? A rant? Sometimes, but not always. I don’t usually rise to the level of anger characterized by a rant. A gripe? Well, a gripe is quick and small-scale. No, when I complain at length it’s like those rumbles in your stomach leading up to a really unpleasant excursion in the restroom. They go on forever and leave you feeling cranky as your innards get all twisted up in knots. The only remedy is getting it out of your system. A grumbling ramble. A “gramble.”
I recognize that this word sort of describes the thing that maybe your grandfather might do about the state of his retirement checks, or that your cranky English teacher might do about the work ethic of his young, irreverent students. As such, it’s not a particularly glamorous addition to a lexicon. But it’s a good one nonetheless, because sometimes you just need to bitch and moan about this one thing specifically, perhaps well beyond the point where the average listener feels sympathetic to you. You need to gramble.
So it’s time to start a movement. You read a blog entry from some guy going on and on about how long he had to wait in line for his driver’s license? Call him out for his gramble. You need to spout off about your boss’s idiotic cornflower blue tie and how ridiculous it makes him look? Fire up the gramble. Kids kept you awake all night and it’s all you can think about or talk about at work the next day? Ask your co-workers to pardon your gramble.
You know this is a word you need in your life. You know you’re dying to use it. Do it. Embrace the dark side, and embrace the raw creative power of language. It’s time to make this a thing. Go get your gramble on.