There are a number of ways new words come into English. We can put two words together to make a compound ("photobomb," "humblebrag"), add endings onto existing words ("hotness"), shorten longer words ("bro"), or simply make them up (That's so "fetch!") But one of the most common ways for a new word to come into English is for people to assume it must already exist. The process is called backformation, and it reveals our natural tendency to expand on the patterns that structure vocabulary.
Related Video: 10 Words That Don't Translate into English
Burgle My Heart
Backformation and Forth
Written by Arika Okrent October 11, 2018
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