Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Oh, no! Not ‘Factiness’, too!

One of my favorite e-friends, Susan Lister, reported today that Steven Colbert has “invented” another word: factiness. Wow, if truthiness made him so popular among the semi-literate, why not push the same cart down another isle?

As I say in previous blogs, Steven is not inventing anything. You can add -y to almost any monosyllabic noun in English to get an adjective that means “like N” or “having N” (grassy, hilly, muddy, dirty, dusty, filmy, . . .) then add -ness to that adjective to create a noun. Facty means “having facts” or “like a fact”, roofy means “having roofs” or “like a roof” (a roofy view, a roofy surface), goaty (a goaty smell or goaty hillside), belty (belty outfit—with several belts or belty smell), etc., etc. etc.

These are words created freely by the rules of English word formation. All these adjectives AUTOMATICALLY have nouns on -ness (roofiness, goatiness, beltiness) by the normal rules of English word formation. They are generated by the creativity of the English language itself.

Of course, having a new term in that enormous category of words referring to guile, bluffing, cozening, deluding, duping, fooling, hoodwinking, humbug, misleading, taking in, trickery, bamboozling, four-flushing, and on and on is always welcome. The size of this category of slang and standard words tells us how important it is to English speakers. Still, unless we find any word we hear for the first time funny, there is nothing funny in adding to this salmagundi of near synonyms.

The lists of words that float around the e-mail channels and that Susan sends me are FAR more creative and funny than anything Colbert has come up with. If you don’t believe me, just check our Laughing Stock, much of which Susan sent in. We have 21 CATEGORIES of funny words. The word I promised never to mention again and factiness pale in comparison to any word on any of those lists.

I still can’t understand the Colbert’s popularity. Neither his show nor Jon Stewart’s is as clever as “That Was The Week That Was” (or the spinoffs) of the 60s or “Not Necessarily the News” of the 70s. The latter is where “sniglets” originated and sniglets are far more interesting than regular word formations.  (Sorry if that was when you were born; you missed the best of political humor despite the fact that we have the funniest politicians today.)

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