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Rhetorical StyleThe Uses of Language in Persuasion$
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Jeanne Fahnestock

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199764129

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199764129.001.0001

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New Words and Changing Uses

New Words and Changing Uses

(p.42) 2 New Words and Changing Uses
Rhetorical Style

Jeanne Fahnestock

Oxford University Press

The English lexicon changes constantly as users coin new words and press existing words into new uses. Novel English words are formed by a variety of methods, including compounding existing words, adding affixes, clipping, blending, creating acronyms, and converting from one part of speech to another. Many of these word-morphing and coining options were discussed in rhetorical manuals, and understanding these methods of word formation leads to an appreciation of English morphology. Coined words are often rhetorical “hot spots”; they indicate an arguer's attempt to convey a novel content/form pairing, and they often argue for “newness” in themselves. This chapter offers examples of each form of coinage, some from arguments where the new word trenchantly delivers an argument. The chapter also covers the inevitable processes of users changing meanings over time, and of losing words as they fall out of current if not potential usage. The process of change and loss is illustrated with an extended case study of the variable meanings of the word junk, beginning with its use by Darwin in a passage from The Voyage of the Beagle where the sense is difficult to recover.

Keywords:   nonce words, compounds, prefixes, suffixes, blends, acronyms, catachresis, meaning change, junk, Darwin

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