What does it exactly mean to say something is not a word? According to webster 1913, a word is essentially a component of human speech, used to express an idea. However, the phrase above is typically used to point out something that does not exist in common language. This implies that making up words is not possible. I find that incorrect and unacceptable.

So what if word 'downvote' (as a verb) is not in dictionary? It's made of two parts, down and vote. Now, I don't know how it is with you english-speaking people, in finnish language it is completely acceptable to take two legitimate words, combine them in legitimate way and create a new, legitimate word.

I say, if a group of letters has an understandable content and it conforms to the language RFC, let it be. newbie is a word, downvote is a word, barfing is a word and ping is conjugated ping - pang - pong.


A short reply: You said people turn to Webster too often in a tone of "English is a living language", and at the same time refuse allowing English to evolve. I don't see anything bad about word-mixing, so why not let it in (stay?) ? Languages should, as they have before, steal whatever's cool in other languages and adapt it.

One, English doesn't like the combing of words nearly as much as Finnish or German (or Eskimo I hear. Don't know for sure). So, that argument doesn't quite work.

But, what I find most interesting is that when we have such issues, noders continually turn to Webster, whether it be 1913 or otherwise.

I know a part of this is the convenience of having a noded dictionary, but someone had to write the definition. Meaning, this "definition" is the opinion of a person or group of people who thought they understood how We, the People, use the language. Webster is not the End-all-Be-all.

Better yet, and this is good general advice, is to make your own definition. A typical (and classical) form is:

____ is a X with characteristic Y

It's not nearly as easy as you might think. The goals are accuracy - meaning the subject is properly designated, and singularity - meaning only the subject is designated. One example:

A word is the most basic functional-unit of language composed of letters.

You'll have to forgive my lack of parallelism but that's a rough draft of such a defintion. To be formal about the matter, we would need to define functional-unit and concept but instead of trying to bottom-out, we'll just run with what we've got.

With this definition, then, saying something isn't a word implies that it's either not a most basic functional-unit or not composed of letters.

In general, I think most people when they say that a word isn't a word mean that it's not a functional-unit. Meaning, they don't accept that construction of letters as having meaning (i.e. they've never heard it before). "lkajk" is a group of letters, but since it doesn't refer to anything, it's functionless, i.e. not a word.

Now, whether or not a "word" like "downvoting" should be called a word or not, depends on your own definition (and not Webster's!) Personally, I see "downvoting" as functional, it's made of letters, and so, according to my definition, it's a word. QED.




A similarly short reply: I never said it shouldn't evolve. (I'm also of the opinion that evolution can't be stopped, but that's another node.) In fact, my definition encourages mixing and combining as long as its functional. I'm pro-change, my friend. But, in general English has other methods of word-creation rather than combining. That's all.

Here's the heart of the matter, which you both should've seen right off the bat:

We don't speak English. Not Webster's English, not the Queen's English, and not American English. We make up words, we use them in the wrong places, And many of us don't spel none to good, neither.

We can understand more than Webster would like to believe, plowing through metaphors, typos, bad grammar, and much much more. When 'we' say that X is not a word, we mean, "We don't like it. Please use something else". We probably don't mean that we don't understand.

Slang is a good thing. Ask Webster 1913 what Cute means. Or internet. 'Downvoting' may not be a word, but Webster 1913 wouldn't admit to 'TV' or 'quark' either. Webster 1985 doesn't recognize internet, although it does have internode, a word which I have never heard used.

Maybe the best measure of what is a word for this population (E2) is what is noded. Downvote does seem to be a word for us. It seems that many 'noders' agree on this.

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