Spell-check and grammar-check are always turned off as I write. If auto-correct is a form of artificial intelligence, then I fear for self-driving cars. While the “correction” is sometimes humorous, to an inattentive writer it also amounts to sabotage. I don’t suspect that bad autocorrections in self-driving cars will be funny.
I often include non-English words and expressions in what I write. I expect a spell-checker to challenge me on these. I use ordinary-enough words most of the time, but it turns out that even these often include terms not found in a spell-checker’s lexicon. (Who builds a spell-check list and leaves words out?) Sometimes I’ll drop in a creative form of a word or an older form or spelling, but even most of these ought to pass.
And so I write without a spell-checker or (God forbid!) a grammar-checker running in the background.
Any novelist creates names for characters. A minor but important player in Cold Morning Shadow, just to give an example, is Alice Prings. That is simply a play on the name of the town, Alice Springs, in the Australian Outback. I don’t need a spell-checker telling me that the name is misspelled.
Once the characters in Cold Morning Shadow begin devising word lists in order to conceal secret messages, they also begin inserting a contrived word now and then that will convey a letter of the alphabet in the necessary position. Wilton advises doing this when he distributes the instructions for writing a message: “…go ahead and use foreign words, contrived words, misspelled words, substitute a letter and make up a fake word, exampla gratia, if you need a ‘T’ in the second position and can’t think of a word right away, change sparrow to starrow — a contrived word, but so be it.”
Words That Spell-check Didn’t Like
After I had finished writing the book, I did run the word processor’s spell-check. It choked on all the non-English terms, of course, and on all of my made-up words. (Those can be found in the third list here) First, here are some real words, or words that should be real, which it didn’t like:
allopreening — The spell-checker never heard of it. When one bird preens or grooms the skin or feathers of another bird, that’s allopreening. I lifted it from the ornithology book and applied it to a scene where a couple of girls are preparing for a ceremony.
apurpose — This adverb is in the same form as the adjectives “abuzz” and “atwitter.” Other similar constructions include “agog” and “awash.” It’s a legitimate word, though, according to Merriam-Webster. In the novel, referring to all the schools in her experience: “The girls in charge of the schools’ girl-rules were always prattling apurpose so that Garnette could hear only the twittering of voices.”
bistre — A real word for a shade of yellow-brown close to sepia. There are many words to describe nuances of color that confuse a spell-checker.
blissless — Consider the inverse of blissfully unaware: Someone can be blisslessly unaware. In the novel, someone would have been blissful if he had been aware, but he had missed something important, so he was both unaware and therefore blissless. This can remain outside the dictionary although it is technically a correct construction.
blonding — The story refers to a commercial product, meant to bleach someone’s head of hair, as a blonding agent.
cinemascopic — Can I be the first person who has used this word? Yes, a certain type of lens was used to film movies in CinemaScope in the 1950s and 1960s. So I’m playing on that here — it’s the right era for the word, cinemascopic, to imply a movie-like image. Garnette is in a fitful semblance of sleep punctuated by disturbing dreams and visions. “As these, the most memorable of her haunts, were parading across her cinemascopic subconsciousness, the pickup’s sub-sonic rumble faded into the east and she knew he was gone.”
designery — A cutesy enhancement to “design,” the noun. “I could go in a more regular dress,” Cyleine allowed. “I just hate those things that look like colored wedding dresses, and all that hair designery — how much would I have to pay to have thirty inches of hair woven into an Eiffel Tower?” This doesn’t need to be added to the dictionary, though.
diphacinone — A common rodenticide related to warfarin but a term unknown to my spell-checker.
djin — In the book, this appears only in a word list as a homonym of “gin.” It’s a legitimate alternate spelling of “djinn,” referring to demons or spirits that, according to Islamic demonology, inhabit the earth and can interact with humans. “Genie” is a form of this word.
encrampment — She wanted to be “unconstrained by the encrampment of doors and ceiling and skin-biting cold.” If wasn’t a word before, it is now, as it should be.
fanfade — The opposite of or absence of fanfare.
fetor — An unpleasant odor that spell-check didn’t recognize.
garblage — Not original with me, “garblage” is a blend of garbage and garble. It’s just garbled words that sound like speech made of garbage. The spell-checker didn’t accept it, but it’s time to include it in the dictionary.
huss — Probably not in any dictionary, but during the fighting in the jungles of Vietnam it meant a rescue by Marine Corps helicopters. Also, according to the web site of the USMC Museum, on a page about the Sikorsky UH-34D: “[T]he CH-46 ‘Phrog’ — …earned its place in Marine aviation history with its work during some of the heaviest fighting in Vietnam. During the war ‘Huss’ became synonymous for being good, valuable, or doing a favor for a buddy — high praise for the helicopter that was originally acquired as a stop-gap!”
kimbol — I’m disappointed to find no on-line confirmation of this word, but I am certain that I heard it discussed on the radio program, “A Way With Words” featuring Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett. There is scant evidence, but enough that I accepted it, to substantiate that “kimbol” has a Caribbean origin and is related to “akimbo,” referring especially to the extended or drooping position of one’s arms.
knap — The spell-checker didn’t like this one. In British parlance it is the crest of a hill. As a verb, it dscribes the act of chipping or striking, as one may knap a stone to sharpen the edge.
lepidopteral — The adjective for lepidoptera, that is, winged insects in the order Lepidoptera. In the novel it refers to moths in a “nocturnal lepidopteral ballet.”
lume — In the novel: illumination. In Italian: lamp. In one archaic English form it also means lamp. (Could this have come directly from Great Britain’s occupation by the armies of ancient Rome?) Unacceptable according to spell-check.
pococurante — An adjective: disdainfully indifferent or with haughty disregard. The spell-checker never heard of it.
pseudofolliculitis — A medical term that spell-check didn’t recognize. The term is explained in the book: “When an individual facial hair exits the follicle but curls so tightly that the tip of it tries to bore back into the skin, or when it curls back toward the follicle before even exiting the skin, it can cause a tiny injury which, multiplied by the thousands of hairs in a beard and when repeatedly injured with daily shaving, can lead to infection and permanent scarring.”
pugil — In Army basic training we were given long poles with wads of rags, almost like boxing gloves, on the ends. Two at a time, on a platform a few feet off the ground, we would try to knock one another off. These poles were called pugil sticks. It’s in some dictionaries, but my spell-checker didn’t like it.
skilletful — Really, spell-check? I suppose it could be rendered as two words, skillet full, but when meant as a unit of measure, like earful or cupful, it can legitimately be expressed as one word. (See Discipline in Writing.)
skyscape — My spell-checker rejected this word. I didn’t. It’s legitimate.
snork — How could a spell-checker not indentify a synonym for “snort”?
spiderling — A real word that spell-check didn’t recognize.
tweezered — To use tweezers. I “coined” this form of the noun in order to avoid writing a long phrase.
ughing — To ugh; saying “Ugh!”
unenhanced — In the novel, this is used referring to eyebrows that are not normally enhanced with makeup, nor do they need to be. Maybe it’s not in any dictionary, but it’s such a simple modification that I can’t take credit for inventing the word.
unlensed — Same idea as the foregoing word; I can’t say I coined it, only that it’s a logical form of a common noun, lens. “Lionel studied her unlensed face in the dimness of the car’s enclosure.” (She normally wears conspicuously ugly eyeglasses.)
unstimulating — I added “un” to a common gerund in order to avoid writing a longer phrase.
upridden — The story mentions someone’s upridden sweatshirt. The dictionary never heard of someone’s shirt riding up.
Words Contrived by Others
Chevrolegs — I forget where I first heard this, but when I was a youth and might hint that I would like a ride in a car to go somewhere, I was told I could use my Chevrolegs.
chronophage — Anything that consumes (eats) time: meetings, long boring rides in the car, sitting in waiting rooms, jury duty, mowing a lawn.
Jerkmobile — Truly, who hasn’t at one time or another referred to a car, filled with jerks, as a Jerkmobile? I can’t take credit.
slushburger — A regional name for a sloppy joe that one might have heard at the time and in the place where this story takes place.
My Own Words
Here, at last, are the terms that I take credit for in the book. I won’t argue if you say that you invented any of them too.
crippy/crippies — Short for cryptanalyst, (one who decrypts encrypted messages).
fizzhead — Phys Ed. Garnette, who has a severe hearing impairment, makes some interesting assumptions about what people have said.
hallaudinating — If “hallucinate” is derived from the Latin, “alucinari,” meaning to wander in mind or see visions (“seeing things”), and is further rooted in the Latin, “lucidus” (light, bright, clear, shining), then someone who is “hearing things” through her auditory anatomy is hallaudinating.
interscription — Cyleine, in keeping a diary, uses a loose sheet of paper each day. But on the same sheet she jots her to-do list for the day, her schedule, and other “interscriptions.”
Kiddeo — An older brother’s pet name for his kid sister.
L-niner — Unique to the novel, a certain military office, designated L-99, is corrupted to “L-niner.”
mabels — A minor character in the novel moonlights as a bouncer in a roadhouse where his wife tends bar. Maybe the term “mabels” is unique to that bar, but it’s how they refer to anyone who needs to be gently escorted or ejected from the place — nuisance customers, troublemakers, drunks.
mubble-mubble — Garnette has coined this term for what people sound like when they mumble.
prepensively — Premeditated. “With a mother’s insight, she inhaled prepensively and detected no perfume on either of them.”
sexsational — How one character describes sensational sex.
shlumfing — Walking with deliberate slumping, shuffling, slum-like dejectedness.
‘tovers — Leftovers. Surely other people have used this term, but I haven’t heard it anywhere else, and it works for the story.
thrumbed — Onomatopoeia is the forming of a word by imitating a sound made by or associated with whatever produces the sound. “Still warm, [the car] thrumbed to an idle.”
trilemma — Surely, as with some other words I take credit for, someone has used this before. But I haven’t run across it. If a dilemma means selecting from two difficult options, sometimes even a Hobson’s Choice between two competing and mutually-exclusive options, a trilemma increases the dilemma to three.
turtlish — Sluggish, deliberate but slow and awkward.
universation — I coined this term (as, no doubt, have others) and have used it since my youth, referring to any so-called conversation I’m involved in where only one person speaks — and speaks and speaks and speaks. Typically I can interject nothing, nor do I care to.
wicky — Better represented as WICKY, an acronym for “Wish I could…” Other acronyms of the same type are suggested in the book.
woodpickle — A woodpecker, as Garnette first heard it pronounced.
worlderful — “Worlderful!” is how minor character, Toleda, describes her wonderful visit to the New York World’s Fair in 1964.
It takes a sure knowledge of your language to presume contriving new words. It’s fun to do it, though. And sometimes such a word might require an explanation.