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    #1

    Bit of a vocabulary and grammar question here:

    Hello there! I'm always fascinated by the English language in general, a student of life rather than in any curriculum currently, but at times there are questions I have which I cannot find an answer to in a dictionary or with a cursory internet search. This one in particular came to be because my father loves word games (Scrabble especially), and has a very verbose vocabulary, but he does not know much about grammar and little of the structure of the English language itself. Now, he and I are aware that certain nouns can be turned into adverbs, adjectives or verbs depending on their context, but some either cannot currently, or have no agreed upon common definition. He is of the opinion that unless a word is in a dictionary, it is either slang, or not a word. Three in particular puzzled me recently, which I could find no definition of in his dictionaries, but have seen used multiple times :

    Zenithed: To have reached the zenith, past participle I believe...? As in, 'We climbed the mountain all day, and at dawn we zenithed'.

    Zeniths: Plural of zenith. Yes, a zenith is the highest point when regarding a singular thing or set of things, but when referring to them individually in the context of something larger...? Such as, 'We climbed many mountains, reaching their zeniths, and Everest had the highest of all'.

    Portaled: Now, this I did find in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, but it had a different definition than I would have thought. He thought it was not a word at all, and I had thought it would be 'to have created a portal, an opening between two places'. Instead it is 'having a portal', as an adjective. Is it valid as both an adjective and a verb, as is the case of bare?

    Any clarification on these words and the grammar behind our questions would be greatly appreciated. While my father is late in life, we both are avid learners, avid readers, and frequently discuss topics such as the etymology of words in the English language, but he has had less direct exposure to grammatical studies, professors and textbooks than I have, and even I have not had exposure for a decade now. He's always had a difficulty with punctuation and grammar, and I feel that perhaps a forum like this might be of aid in letting him learn from others more directly if he wishes. Maybe some day he might even feel confident enough to write the biographies of famous figures he has had an interest in or his own memoirs if he had a bit of aid to guide him better than I can alone.

  1. Skrej's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Bit of a vocabulary and grammar question here:

    Quote Originally Posted by BlueJester View Post

    Zenithed: To have reached the zenith, past participle I believe...? As in, 'We climbed the mountain all day, and at dawn we zenithed'. Works for me, although I'd just consider it a simple past tense of a regular verb 'zenith' in your example.

    Zeniths: Plural of zenith. Yes, a zenith is the highest point when regarding a singular thing or set of things, but when referring to them individually in the context of something larger...? Such as, 'We climbed many mountains, reaching their zeniths, and Everest had the highest of all'. Works for me.

    Portaled: Now, this I did find in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, but it had a different definition than I would have thought. He thought it was not a word at all, and I had thought it would be 'to have created a portal, an opening between two places'. I would think it to mean to have moved between two locations through a portal, rather than referring to the process of actually creating a portal. Instead it is 'having a portal', as an adjective. Is it valid as both an adjective and a verb, as is the case of bare? Sure, why not?
    Welcome to the forum.

    I think the answers you'll get will vary, as to whether these are 'real words' or not. What I can offer is that they are that they are examples of neologisms - words that are newly invented or freshly (re)defined which haven't yet entered mainstream language. The word neologism was itself a neologism.

    There is no official governing body of the English language which dictates when a newly coined word becomes an official word. Essentially, when a new word becomes widely used enough dictionary writers may or may not decide to include it, which is why you'll see differences between dictionaries.

    The decision to include new terms in dictionaries is a subjective choice by the writers of a given dictionary, but generally it boils down to how widely used they deem a new word to be. Here are a couple of short articles from a couple of major dictionaries (Merriam Webster and the Oxford English dictionary) on how they select new words for inclusion. Note a common criteria they both cite is that the word must appear in print.

    It is a fact that all languages change and evolve over time, and the speakers of a given language change it as they see fit, including inventing new words. Some of those new words become generally accepted into mainstream language with time, while some words eventually lose their usage to the point they're essentially dropped from the language. Other words for various reasons never gain widespread usage, and remain non-standard or unofficial enough to never make it into dictionaries.

    Slang in particular changes fairly rapidly, and of course varies dramatically by region, race, social class, and numerous other demographic factors. Sometimes if slang hangs around long enough and/or becomes widely used, it'll make it into a dictionary.

    Words already accepted still occasionally get updated or expanded definitions, both informally and formally (i.e. in dictionaries).

    So are your words 'real' words? I guess that depends upon your definition of real. If your criteria is strictly 'found in a dictionary', then probably not. If your criteria is something more along the lines of 'a logical extension which makes sense and is immediately understandable', then probably yes.

    I suppose only time (and future dictionary updates) will ever definitively answer your question.
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    #3

    Re: Bit of a vocabulary and grammar question here:

    I believe from the books I have read about mountaineering that summited is a more standard term.

  2. Piscean's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Bit of a vocabulary and grammar question here:

    My wife, who has climbed a few mountains in her time, tells me that she has summited many times, but never zenithed.
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 16-Jan-2016 at 18:47.

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