What the heck is a sniglet? According to comedian Rich Hall, who coined the phrase in the 1980s HBO series, Not Necessarily the News, a sniglet is “any word that doesn’t appear in the dictionary, but should.”
Obviously, this is not a new concept. People have been making up their own words since the days of woolly mammoths. But Mr. Hall is the man who came up with a name for these neologisms, and that seems to be a specialty of his. His keen insight into American culture, a fascination with the English language, and a dry wit led him to publish five collections of sniglets—his own, as well as submissions from his fans.
So, for instance, if you’re looking for a term to describe the affliction of dialing a phone number and forgetting who you were calling just as they answer, Hall has created a word especially for you: phonesia. He also came up with the very useful “carperpetuation,” which finally gives us a way to describe the act of running the vacuum over a string or piece of lint dozens of times, reaching over to pick it up, examining it, and then putting it back down to give the vacuum one last chance. It’s about time someone came up with a term for that scenario.
Even Oprah Winfrey’s gotten into the act with slumpadinka (a woman who dresses like she’s given up on herself, and it shows). So it’s only logical that, as writers, we should have our own set of sniglets. For example:
Barfiage—the act of effortlessly “spewing” the perfect poem, short story, or chapter in one writing session. (The act of effortlessly spewing a fabulous poem, short story, or chapter that needs absolutely no revision is called a “miracle.”)
Blockberry—the slightly scary assistant who stands between you and your editor or literary agent every time you call
Criticut—a member of a writers group who scribbles a single derogatory word across the front page of your work (DRIVEL!) but offers no other comment whatsoever
Chickencrit—a member of a writers group who offers plenty of criticism and advice, yet never, ever offers up their own work for scrutiny
Embarrasqueak—the excited noise one makes when the answer to a perplexing plot question (for example) strikes at an inappropriate time, such as in the middle of a staff meeting or at a funeral for the kids’ hamster
Embarrastare—the blank stare on a writer’s face when lost in thought, again at inopportune and embarrassing moments
Frusta-freeze—an inexplicably frozen computer screen (and the inexplicable error message that follows)
Keybored—the act of aimlessly surfing the Web when you should be working
Queternity—the amount of time that elapses between sending out a query and hearing something back
Repeat-a-cut—a paper cut that keeps getting reopened
Wikiholic—person with a tragic addiction to Wikipedia
Zoomilocation—a future Olympic event, zoomilocation describes the act of zipping around your office on a chair with wheels
And there’s an actual term that describes that elusive word just on the tip of your tongue—you know, the word so elusive that nothing remotely similar comes to mind, so even your thesaurus can’t help you?
And, finally, one more. Rich Hall is to thank for this one: Sarchasm—the gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it. (May we suggest sarcastrophe, as in “The humor of this piece fell flat, which was an unfortunate sarcastrophe”?)
Writers worldwide should be quite happy with this treasure trove of new material. No longer will we have to rack our brains for just the right phrase to describe two people wrestling for the same armrest at the movie theater (elbonics), or that smudgy, slimy nose print dogs leave on the windows (pupkus). Thank you, Rich Hall. Thank you for enriching our vocabulary and expanding our repertoire of yet more words to learn how to spell.
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