What shapes our language?


(that’s “hello” in Icelandic).

We found this beautiful infographic on how new words are born, and we wanted to share it with you.

Below you will find the text and more information on what shapes our language! You will also find difficult vocabulary words explained.


How a word is born

1. Combine two or more existing words into one idea, also known as portmanteau.

Example: turducken – a partially de-boned turkey stuffed with a de-boned duck, which is stuffed with a small de-boned chicken.

Other portmanteau’s are: smog (smoke and fog), motel (motor and hotel).

2. Pop culture reference from a movie, TV show, song, etc. 

Example: threequel – a second sequel or third installment in a book or a film series.

3. Adapted from another language

Example: vuvuzela – a long plastic instrument popular with soccer fans in South Africa, popularized internationally during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

4. Tied to new media, website or technology

Example: unfriend – the act of removing a friend from your Facebook account.

5. Old words get new uses

Example: mouse – a hand-operated device that controls the cursor on a computer screen.

6. Abbreviations and acronyms

Example: TTYL –  abbreviation for “talk to you later”.

More examples of abbreviations: YOLO (“you only live once”), LOL (“laugh out loud”)…

7. By mistake, certain words or phrases that are written or spoken incorrectly can become commonly used.  

Example: refudiate – a combination of “refute” and “repudiate” coined by Sarah Pailin.

The Incredible Shrinking Sentence

Language has become more concise – requiring only as much as needed to communicate the point. The fewer keystrokes, the better.

Telegraph required senders to create shorter transmissions since length determined cost. In the late 19th century, some telegraph carriers would charge more for a word longer than 15 characters, or a sentence longer than 10 words. Telegraphic code books became popular, shrinking a sentence or phrase into a single word.

Though email and instant messaging don’t have the same limitations, concise language and fewer keystrokes are key. Using single letters in place of full words (“U there?” instead of “Are you there?”) saves time and keystrokes.

SMS developers establish 160 character limit. Communications researcher Friedhelm Hillebrand, as chairman of the nonvoice services committee within the Global System for Mobile communications in 1986, tried to harness secondary radio channel for text transmission, which could only allow 160 characters.

Facebook places 420 character limit on status updates, updated from 160 when status updates first were launched.

Twitter places 140-character limit on tweets.


Refute – to prove that (something) is not true.

Repudiate – to refuse to accept or support (something) : to reject (something or someone).

Concise – using few words : not including extra or unnecessary information.

Shrinking – the amount by which something becomes smaller or less.

Chairman – the person (especially a man) who is in charge of a meeting, committee, or event.

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