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14 Underused Words Coined by James Joyce

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Making up words is a common Internet pastime, but James Joyce was way ahead of the curve in this area. In many of his works—but especially in the innovative Ulysses—the English language as it was didn’t meet Joyce’s needs, so he made up words of his own, slamming together existing terms and creating new variations. Few of these neologisms are common, though the following are all recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary. They’re all due for a comeback, so consider using these 14 words in your think pieces and judicial dissents.

1. ripripple

Reduplication might be the most fun way to make a word, as seen in terms like jibber-jabber, hocus-pocus, and choo-choo. Joyce went to the reduplication well for this word, which refers to something flowing like rippling water. Thanks to the repetition, it’s as if the word itself is riprippling.

2. and 3. poppysysmic and plopslop

This word has to do with sounds produced by the smacking of the lips, and I can imagine the ever-creative Joyce licking his own lips when using this word in a neologism-heavy passage from Ulysses: “Florry whispers to her. Whispering lovewords murmur liplapping loudly, poppysmic plopslop.” Plopslop is another great word reminiscent of slipslop, which can mean a drippy, sappy form of malarkey.

4. pelurious

Meaning furry or hairy, pelurious is perfect for those times when writing hirsute just won’t do. Despite their tiny frames, papillons are quite pelurious.

5. and 6. smilesmirk and smellsip

When Joyce wrote, “She smilesmirked supercilious” in Ulysses, he coined a perfect term for our smug age, when every facial expression, word, and emoji comes with an implied eye roll. This term is similar to another Joycism: smellsip. In Joyce’s age and now, the most reliable way to make a new word is by gluing two old words together.

7. mumchanciness

This obscure term is a variation of another rarity—mumchanceness—which had more to do with being mum than taking a chance when it appeared in a 1910 novel by Anthony Hope: “Perhaps his very mum-chanceness was his saving. Glib protestations would have smacked too strongly of the principal to commend the agent.” Joyce added a single syllable and considerable charm when he used it in a 1920 letter: “I am much inconvenienced by their cursed mumchanciness.” In other words, “By the ravens of Odin, why don’t they speak up?”

8. weggebobble

This humorous alteration of vegetable is reminiscent of other respellings of words for the sake of humor, like erhmagerd or Homer Simpson’s Jebus.

9. skeeze

Joyce used this term for peering or leering twice in Ulysses: when he described characters “skeezing round the door” and “always skeezing at those brazenfaced things on the bicycles with their skirts blowing up to their navels.” There does seem to be a relationship to the contemporary, slangy sense of skeeze as a harlot, which doesn’t pop up until 1989 in the lines of another poet, Sir Mix-A-Lot.

10. peloothered

As Paul Dickson demonstrated in his brilliant book Drunk: The Definitive Drinker’s Dictionary, you can never have too many words for being plastered. Joyce’s contribution to the lexicon of drunkenness was peloothered, which he used in 1914’s Dubliners: “It happened that you were peloothered, Tom.” This may be a variation of an older term with the same meaning: bloothered.

11. tattarrattat

This variation of rat-a-tat belongs to the wonderful set of onomatopoeiac words, such as boom, kaboom, buzz, whoosh, and beeeeeeep. The use in Ulysses is self-explanatory: “I knew his tattarrattat at the door.” That says so much more than knock knock, doesn’t it? A tattarrattatter is a knocker with style, and tattarrattat would also work well as a description of drumming.

12. impotentizing

In a 1920 letter, Joyce coined a word perfect for our Viagra-centric age: “Moly could also be absinthe the cerebral impotentising (!!) drink of chastity.” In fact, I’m pretty sure the medical term for all bonerfying drugs is un-impotentizers.

13. pornosophical

The OED defines this Joyce-ism as “of or relating to the philosophy of the brothel,” but it’s ready for any boom-chicka-wah-wah-related meaning today. If the amusing @KimKierkegaard Twitter account—which mashes Søren Kierkegaard’s philosophy with Kim Kardashian’s inanity—discussed KK’s sex tape, that would be truly pornosophical.

14. yogibogeybox

The OED defines this woo-woo gadget as the “paraphernalia of a spiritualist.” For superhero and sorcerer supreme Dr. Strange, his yogibogeybox would include the Eye of Agamotto, a classic comic-book MacGuffin. For the magical misleaders of the real world, a yogibogeybox is likely far more mundane. I’m thinking crystals or, if you’re lucky and someone else is unlucky, voodoo dolls.

SP Books
A Limited Edition, Handwritten Manuscript of The Great Gatsby Can Be Yours for $249
SP Books
SP Books

Fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby need to put this on their holiday wish list: The French manuscript publisher SP Books is releasing a deluxe, limited-edition version of Fitzgerald’s handwritten Gatsby manuscript.

A handwritten manuscript of 'The Great Gatsby' open to a page
SP Books

The 328-page, large-format edition is cloth-bound and features an ornamental, iron-gilded cover. The facsimile of Fitzgerald’s original manuscript shows how the author reworked, rewrote, and otherwise altered the book throughout his writing process, changing character’s names (Nick was named “Dud” at one point), cutting down scenes, and moving around where certain information was introduced to the plot, like where the reader finds out how Gatsby became wealthy, which in the original manuscript wasn’t revealed until the end of the book. For Fitzgerald superfans, it's also signed.

A page of the handwritten manuscript with a pen on it
SP Books

The publisher is only selling 1800 copies of the manuscript, so if you’re a lover of literary history, you’d better act fast.

It’s available from SP Books for $249.

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Pop Culture
An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]


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