You know how other languages have single words for concepts that English needs a whole sentence, or maybe even a paragraph, to express? The German ‘shadenfreude’, the pleasure one takes in the misfortune of others, is a great example. These days, ‘backfeifengesicht’ — roughly, a face badly in need of a fist — is one that has been alarmingly relevant, for some reason.
English can catch up. My wife is excellent at coming up with new words. For example: pupsetto. You know how you speak in a higher register when talking to something cute? That’s pupsetto.
I myself came up with kindlespointment. That’s when you open your Kindle and realize you’re too cheap to buy books you actually want to read.
Evolution in language goes beyond just new words. If you really want to improve accuracy and conciseness, I say you have to reach higher. I invented a new tense. It’s called the ‘past prohibitive’. You use it when you did something, but wished you hadn’t.
For example, you could say. “I had the oysters, but one was bad and I was up all night puking.” Or, you could say: I hud the oysters. The rest of the experience is implied. Get it? That’s the past prohibitive.
She slud with him. No sad details about her perennial gap between romantic hopes and romantic reality needed.
He vud for Donald Trump. Useful, isn’t it?
These days, when we rely so much on texting, I think the next evolution should be with emojis. We need better ones, with more refinement and complexity. For example, how about one that says, ‘I’ve seen this passive-aggressive game before, and I’m just not going to play this time?” An emoji like that would save the need for a lot of honest sharing of thoughts and feelings.
With a Perspective, I’m Adam Browning.
Adam Browning is executive director of a solar advocacy non-profit. He lives in Oakland.