Words and Phrases Made Up By Our Favorite Writers

There are currently over 171,000 words in the English language and this number is sure to grow. To get a word into a dictionary, it must be used by many people who agree to its meaning and this takes time. The words and phrases you will read about here were all made up by writers and are found in their books. The English language has been enriched for years by neologisms created by authors and adopted by the general public. You may be quite familiar with some of their work. Some of these words may form part of your vocabulary, thanks to these popular writers.

1. Nerd

We have all come to love Theodor Seuss Geisel, known as Dr. Seuss. The word “nerd” was initially coined by Dr. Seuss in his 1950 book “If I Ran the Zoo.” In this book, Gerald McGrew, a boy who is visiting a zoo, found it boring and said that if he was in charge, he would bring a “Nerkle, a Nerd, and a seersucker” to the zoo. While it isn’t clear what a nerd is in this context, it doesn’t seem to carry the same meaning that it does today. It was used for the first time in the context we recognize today in an article published in Newsweek in 1951. The word nerd now means a person who lacks social skills and is interested in technical things.

2. Utopia

The word utopia was coined by Sir Thomas More and was used as the title of his book in 1516. It describes a fictional island society in the New World, one that is perfect in legal, social and political systems. Utopia came from two Ancient Greek words- ou-topos which means no place and eu-topos which means good place. Is it possible to achieve a perfect world? Whether the book is a real attempt to imagine a better way of living or a satire that provided More with a stage from which to analyze the turmoil of European politics is uncertain.

3. Cyberspace

William Gibson is a well-known writer who shaped the cyberpunk genre. He coined the term “cyberspace” which is written in his 1982 short story “Burning Chrome.” In 1984, when he published “Neuromancer,” his first book, he further promoted the concept. Gibson’s science-fiction book defined cyberspace as the development of a computer network in a universe populated by artificially intelligent creatures. While today we have a somewhat different description of what cyberspace is, Gibson made the connection between cyberspace and computers.

4. Yahoo

The word “Yahoo” was first used in the 1726 classic book “Gulliver Travels” written by Johnathan Swift. Lemuel Gulliver, the main character, is stranded on the islands of the Land of the Houyhnhnms during the final voyage. The Houyhnhnms is an equine race depicted as a highly intelligent society of what at first look seems to be common horses. On the other hand, there are Yahoos on the island who are violent brutes under Houyhnhnm control. Since then, the word Yahoo means crass, stupid and savage people. Let’s not get that mistaken with Yahoo, the tech company. 

5. Catch-22

American author Joseph Heller first used the phrase “Catch-22” as the title of his 1961 novel. In the book, the protagonist poses as insane in order to escape risky combat missions, but his desire to do so is interpreted as evidence of his sanity. Catch-22 is a challenging circumstance from which there is no escape due to the presence of conditions that are mutually exclusive or dependent. 

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