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  • Creative Writing

    Duolect – Your Creative Words as a Gift

    I am quite sure that you share some creative words or expressions with your partners, siblings or friends that cannot be found in a dictionary, but which you two understand, frequently use and need for communication. These are a part of your duolect.

    How did I come up with the idea of making a gift of creative words?

    The idea came to me during my linguistic studies when I learned about the concept of idiolect. According to Wikipedia an idiolect is ‘an individual’s distinctive and unique use of language.’ If each of us has their own idiolect, it follows that by spending time and talking a lot with another person we form a shared duolect.

    Differences between the official language and an idiolect encompass vocabulary, pronunciation and, to a lesser extent, grammar. Typical examples include pet names (e.g. Alliebear, Baby-Bugga-Boo), intended mispronunciations (e.g. yesh, shmaybe, muscles with ‘k’) or using existing words in unusual meanings (e.g. calling an old family’s car or a child’s pram a carriage). Owing to such creative words we have something that we share with just one other person and nobody else, which brings us closer together.

    After four years of going out with my future husband, I decided to write down our shared vocabulary and to give it to him as a present for our anniversary. I came up with 18 expressions, which – along with their definitions – covered two pages. Since they are Polish (or a mixture of Polish and other languages we both knew), the examples I am going to give you are not the exact words we used but their approximate translations.

    KoHoney – a mix of the Polish word “kochany” (dear one) and the English word “honey” used mostly in SMS

    WinnyBear / TeddyKitty  – a pet name that originates from a word play consisting in a gender transformation

    Crazymads – a mix of two synonyms “mad” and “crazy” to call the other person or both of us whenever we decide to do something unbelievable and surprising

    Cherry up! – a funny way to raise somebody’s spirits by introducing a fruit to a fixed expression

    Creative words keep coming up, so keep writing them down!

    This present has one significant advantage: it may be reprinted. When I read it after seven years, I found out that we no longer use some of these expressions, but we have come up with many new creative words. A new edition can be issued every time a considerable change in the life of a given couple occurs, in particular, every time the family grows bigger. In our case the most recent edition would surely feature such words as: a chaserpillar (a wind-up toy in the shape of a caterpillar that our daughter loves to chase), motherneering (climbing over the body of one’s mother),  the Daddylayas and the Mamalps (rock formations made of respective parent’s bodies that a toddler enjoys climbing). I think it’s worth writing them down (even without the intention of making a dictionary) just to go back to them from time to time and be amazed with one’s own linguistic creativity.

    And what unusual words may be heard at your homes and in your relationships?

    My advice:

    • Start working on this project a few days in advance. It may be rather difficult to write down all the interesting expressions from memory. But when you have a few days to complete your dictionary, you will be sensitive to these creative words all the time and will notice more of them in your everyday conversations.
    • I recommend noting the origin of certain creative words. I regret not having done so since I now no longer remember where many of the words we used came from.
    • If you don’t use any advanced publishing applications, you may just as well prepare your dictionary in a Word document, as I did. One horizontal page broken into two columns will serve as a cover (back and front), and others – also with two columns – will be filled with words and their definitions. Just ensure that the definitions of your creative words don’t cross page boundaries since the order of pages after printing may differ from the one on your computer screen. For all the unskilled dictionary publishers I enclose a template.
    • You may also come up with a trilect, tetralect or pentalect featuring the language of a bunch of friends or a whole family!

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