Wordhacking made easy

Dirty Harry speaks to a chair and overnight, Eastwooding enters the vocabulary. Eastwooding is an easy one, like Tebowing. Adding a gerund (an ing) to a noun is child’s play. More advanced wordhacks — Stephen Colbert elevating truthiness to a word of the year —  is an art form.

Making up new words (that’s neologisms for the wordanistas out there) isn’t a cyberspace invention. Although the Internet does seem to spawn more than its fair share. Literature has given us Scrooges, Polyannas and Snarks. Science and technology have given us lidar, Google and Photoshop.

Why do we do it? Much easier for people to grok what you’re talking about by smushing two words together like shoe and stupidity. For example:

“Shoepidity” – noun

“The act of wearing ridiculously uncomfortable shoes because – come on – they look incredible.” Example: “Girl those seven-inch Gaga heels you’re rocking are sheer shoepidity. I hope you brought flip-flops!*

These made up words work because we’re not used to them. They trip off the tongue easily and sound interesting to the listener. They work on the brain, telling it to “sit up, switch off autopilot, and translate this.” Used judiciously by clever speakers, writers, educators the wordhack screams “look at me, pay attention.” The best ones are not only unusual, but there are enough familiar parts or references to easily understand and remember them.

So how can you play? I’ve started to compile a handy list of word hacks. Part 1 is below. Instructions included. Enjoy!

*Glamour Magazine, Sep 2012 Issue.

Gavin_Animated-GifGavin is a founding partner at fassforward Consulting Group. He blogs about PowerPoint, Presenting, Communication and Message Discipline at makeapowerfulpoint.com. You can follow him on twitter @powerfulpoint.

More at Google+Facebook and Pinterest. Comments are welcome, links are appreciated. If you’re interested in writing guest posts for this blog, please contact me.


  1. Michelle Mazur | September 5, 2012 at 11:03 am

    I loved this post. First, great use of the word “grok”. Nerds of the world unite. Second, awesome inforgraphic. You really nailed word hacking. One I would add (more for popular culture’s sake) combining a couples name – TomKat, Brangelina

    • Matt_S_Law | September 16, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      I totally didn’t even realize he used the word grok in the article until I read your comment. Grok is such a common part of my everyday vocabulary that I forgot it was made up… Nerd alert. :)

  2. Gavin | September 5, 2012 at 11:26 am


    Love those. Really displaying your “awesomefullness” (One I got from Laura Foley ‏@LMFdesign this morning.


  3. Matt_S_Law | September 16, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Gavin, I’m glad this got fresh-pressed so I could find it, because this is clearly the Greatest. Article. Ever. (and there’s probably a word for emphasizing your point by separating it into one-word sentences, right?). Seriously, awesome!

    • Gavin | September 16, 2012 at 5:48 pm

      Matt. Thank. You.

  4. bimodz | September 16, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    That’s simply Vocabularicious !

  5. 3arn0wl | September 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm


  6. cwfrancis | September 16, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    I’m going to have to consider this as I’m puting together my own creative writings and posts. Thanks

  7. Kellie Kennedy | September 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    I love this article. Recently heard someone on TV call herself a BU-JEW regarding their religious beliefs Buddhism combined Jewish. Well then I advised on my most recent blog …I must be a BUD-CAT. Buddhism and Catholic!!

  8. Jeremy Truitt | September 16, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    What a neat post. Not much else to say, unique and awesome!

  9. Ali Raza | September 16, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    this is seducisevly addictable!

  10. brookenado | September 16, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Thanks for the awesome and informative word hacking lesson, loved the presentation of it all and definitely of freshly-pressable status! :)

  11. A Londoner from Afar | September 16, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Awesome post! I am looking forward to the next part. Congrats on being freshly pressed.

  12. oinkdiaries | September 16, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    My friends call me “Kitchen Ninja”! XD

  13. cartoonmick | September 16, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    I like your cartoon style presentation, similar to mine.




  14. Pingback: Wordhacking made easy « S. C. Powell

  15. systimplicity | September 16, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I love this post. I love making up words too. My most recent is jargonic which is an adjective meaning ‘full of jargon’ and it is best used with the words ‘BS’ as in ‘jargonic BS’! Hopefully everyone knows what BS is because I’m not sure I can spell it out on WordPress:)

  16. jeanwhaleywilliams | September 17, 2012 at 12:47 am

    I will say this much: the post is not replete with stinkiosity.

  17. ebay123justdoit | September 17, 2012 at 2:21 am

    Reblogged this on Make Her Busy.

  18. rmk | September 17, 2012 at 2:25 am

    This is awesome. It will be helpful for adding more made up words to my vocabulary in the future.

  19. diannegray | September 17, 2012 at 2:59 am

    I’m using my likology degree to give you the thumbs up on this. So glad it was FP’d otherwise I may have missed it! :D

  20. JellyPom | September 17, 2012 at 3:17 am

    Love this. :) But wait until there’s a riot concerning the chat-speech generation tearing up the English language :(

  21. arabellacherrytart | September 17, 2012 at 4:08 am

    Reblogged this on Arabella Cherry Tart and commented:
    I’m not alone! Weee!

  22. ayeshablyzz | September 17, 2012 at 5:51 am

    Reblogged this on ayeshablyzz and commented:
    Scrolling in the freshly pressed posts, my eye stuck on this.. Interesting..way to wordhacking… ^_^

  23. thearchitectyahweh | September 17, 2012 at 7:20 am

    I am Yahweh, your God. Thank you for promoting Right Brain Activity. As a God I use Word Perfect and Dream Weaver. Anything I write comes true. My halo genes are all coding. Right Minds can create new words. Left minds are boring.

  24. bambusasolutions | September 17, 2012 at 7:25 am

    Yay! I now have a viable alternative to “Grammar Nazi”. I will for evermore be known as a Grammar Ninja. Much better! (and less likely to get odd, slightly judgemental, looks). I can now also be a Spelling Ninja and a Recycling Ninja in addition to a Word Nerd.

  25. GiRRL_Earth | September 17, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Hysterical! I sent the link to your post to all of my financial writing co-workers.
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  26. mirrormon | September 17, 2012 at 10:11 am

    very createresting!… (something creative thats equally interesting) ;p

  27. April Adrales™ | September 17, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Reblogged this on apriladrales and commented:
    make a powerful point.

  28. Tiana Feng | September 17, 2012 at 11:18 am

    I love this! I’m always making up silly words and sometimes I accidentally type them in print!

  29. Washington, DC | September 17, 2012 at 11:28 am

    …How Interestlicious! Maybe I need to keep working on this…

  30. gloomishmel9 | September 17, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Reblogged this on gloomishmel.

  31. gloomishmel9 | September 17, 2012 at 11:38 am


  32. ethelthedean | September 17, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    A brilliant post, marked by its hilariosity and geniosity!

  33. susiemorrow | September 17, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Ha, excellent, I thought, you must be American, as Americans seem to be particularly good at this (us Brits inventing much more down to earth and useful phrases such as ‘Hey nonny, nonny’. But then I looked at your ‘About’ so maybe you aren’t? Whatever, interesting and I love the evolutionary aspect of language and how humans can manipulate it so beautifully and with such sublime imagination.

    • Gavin | September 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      Hi Susie,

      I am English, though transplanted. I think I still am English and sound English, but when I go back, they all think I’m ‘Merican.

      • susiemorrow | September 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm

        Oh that must be it then, a sort of epigenetic transfer of language skills

  34. rahulusingh | September 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Nice one. your post is very good and creative full of attention. keep on posting like this.

  35. Bridget | September 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Awesome! Gotta repost this. Thanks!

  36. clareggs | September 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    I really enjoyed this post, very simple yet clever at the same time! Me and my partner are always making up silly words and we will use this guide to continue doing so! Great post!

  37. L. Palmer | September 17, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Creating new words is useful. Sometimes, there isn’t an official word to describe what I’m trying to say. For example, one of my favorites is “Actionated,” which means taking something passive and adding some sort of exciting and action-oriented element to it. “They actionated this movie by adding a car chase.”
    I tell people I have a license to create new words because I have a degree in English.

  38. The Populist Farmer | September 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    apocaloptimist. recently added to my list of favorite words. it also describes the novel i’m writing rather well. good post. congrats on freshpressed.

  39. Redge | September 17, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    I just love the creativity expressed in this post, not only in the words but in the presentation too.

    Other sensible word hacks that come to mind are Spanglish and Chinglish.

    Great reading and definitely deserving to be freshly pressed.

  40. accountkeepingplus | September 17, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Great blog – Thanks -very educational

  41. betterprose | September 17, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Idiots Guide to Sounding Like a ValleyGirl.

  42. Xenogirl | September 17, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    I frequently enjoy the simple yet elegant effect of adding a “y” to the end of a verb or noun and using said combination as an adjective. I have recently utilized neologisms such as “that comment makes me feel stabby” and “you wouldn’t believe how exercisey I was this weekend” or “what is there to eat… I am so snacky.” Fun post!

  43. Vincent Borgese | September 17, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Try these two: “dethaw” and “overneath.” I was quite certain neither were words, but it turns out “dethaw” means to thaw to a liquid state ( i was certain it meant to refreeze), while “overneath” means what you would think, to go over, or the opposite of underneath. Now, I have to apologize to my friend and my daughter. Interesting post, and congratulations!

  44. Theasaurus | September 17, 2012 at 11:27 pm


  45. Pragati | September 18, 2012 at 12:46 am

    “Stupendous” :)

  46. Funkangeles | September 18, 2012 at 2:07 am

    Reblogged this on Funkangeles and commented:

  47. Mind of Andy | September 18, 2012 at 4:46 am

    Genious! hah! :D

  48. williamw60640 | September 18, 2012 at 6:32 am

    What a fun and informative post. You’re clearly a blogging-ninja. Congrats on being FP!

  49. Matthew Wright | September 18, 2012 at 7:14 am

    Cool. Serious brillig. And so true.

  50. onestoplinks | September 18, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Reblogged this on ESKINITANG Pinoy .

  51. Lonnie | September 18, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Good post. I hope these wordhacks make it to the scrabble dictionary pronto.

  52. W. | September 18, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Very funny and useful!

  53. Lu | September 18, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Awesome post! But the part about the shoes was my favorite! So true! Made me laugh out loud.

  54. Delana | September 18, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    I’m sure this post will be a ginormous hit. :)

  55. Carmel | September 18, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    love love love this post!

  56. Sunshine | September 18, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks to this season of Big Brother (14) we have turned Hammock into a verb. There is this kid on there, he uses the Hammock to de-stress, so he goes out there a few times a day to Hammock. Or as I say practically every night they have yard access, “There goes Ian, he’s hammocking again.”

  57. Lila | September 18, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    Your post is so visually appealing. I think I made up 4 words today while talking, somehow, I’m not sure that’s a good thing for my vocabulary skills. You think it makes us better speakers or worse? We’re talking like children!

    If you watched an episode of an MTV show called “Awkward,” there are a lot of interesting words and phrases made up by the main character’s friend, I forgot the name, most of the words she used had an insulting twist to them; I remember one was “adora-whorable” and it it’s the first time I heard it. In the show it was used in reference to a girl a girl who was adorable for a whore, i.e., “she’s adora-horrible.” The stuff is amusing.

    • Gavin | September 19, 2012 at 6:55 am

      Hi Lila,

      You ask a good question – does it make us better speakers or worse.

      My quick answer is this – if you use so many made up words that you begin to lose impact – then you are making it worse.

      If you use one (maybe two) in a 30 minute presentation, I think you are using a very human, and very memorable tentpole around which to hang the rest of your presentation.

      If you use none, and speak like Mr. Webster or Mr. Merriam, then you are going to be pretty boring.


      • Lila | September 19, 2012 at 12:39 pm

        You make a powerful point, Gavin ;)
        In other words, it’s not about expanding vocabulary, it’s about updating it.

  58. Pingback: Calling Apprentice Word Inventors! | 8thdiscoverers

  59. Girl Friday | September 18, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    Fantastic post. Copy editors everywhere are sooning over it right now!

  60. theoverberg.com | September 19, 2012 at 12:59 am

    Informidable! … need to work harder on my blogs, thanks!

  61. my words on a string | September 19, 2012 at 2:03 am

    My brother called me out today on changing staccato into a verb, as in, “spoons staccatoed in the bowl”. When I smiled, he said, “How very James Joyce of you”. We all need to be a little James Joycey :)

    • Gavin | September 19, 2012 at 6:59 am

      I love this. It makes language so visual when a person or a phrase is transformed into a verb.

      “Christian Dior me” from Evita
      “Google that”
      “Xerox this”
      “They live in a McMansion”
      “He has a McJob”

  62. starsfromheavens | September 19, 2012 at 3:08 am

    luv luv luv it… you’re really creative!!! smart smart! who did all the blogenious sketches?

    • Gavin | September 19, 2012 at 6:59 am

      Thanks! I did the sketches… very slowly

  63. arnetteh | September 19, 2012 at 5:27 am

    Reblogged this on Artist's Alley.

  64. tearmatt | September 19, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Gavin I love how you write, and what a great subject. I never knew it was called Wordhacking though!!?

    • Gavin | September 19, 2012 at 9:56 am

      Thanks Matt,

      It isn’t (officially) called wordhacking. I made that up. It was better than wordmakeupping, and easier to understand than portmanteau (which is the official name for two words stuck together) or neoligism, which is the word for a new word.

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  66. Just Me With . . . | September 19, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Cool. (That’s all I got). Oh, and congrats on FP. Too many words, too many words . . .

  67. Pingback: Wordhacking made easy | make a powerful point | Under The Radar

  68. Anna Rydne | September 19, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    The new Twitter-words made me laugh out loud! Great post, great drawings, great becoming Freshly Pressed. Congratulations! I really enjoyed the post.

  69. Miriam Joy | September 19, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Love it! Folk on Tumblr do this a lot, often to refer to crossovers between fandoms. E.g. AvengeLock is Sherlock and Avengers; SuperWhoLock is Supernatural, Doctor Who and Sherlock. Those were the first ones I thought of off the top of my head :D But it’s slightly different because those are all just names. I don’t come across the words so much, though sometimes I’m stuck for what things mean and have to work it out :D

    Congrats on Freshly Pressed!

  70. renderuntocaesar | September 20, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Great post. I especially like the ‘ninja’ bit. My favourites are:
    Internet ninja
    facebook ninja
    Voodo ninja

  71. Ankit Mathur | September 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Reblogged this on BE CURIOUS.

  72. randominsecurity | September 22, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    I love to used the word “-lisation” :D
    It’s just too easy to slip into conversations!

  73. pinkeleffant | September 28, 2012 at 12:36 am

    Wordalicious :)

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  77. vrunsingh | May 17, 2013 at 8:40 am

    This is really one of the best posts I’ve seen on wordpress.

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