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Saturday, July 09, 2011

Turning adjectives into nouns

I recently came across this title in my reading: "The problem of temporary intrinsics". Temporary intrinsics sounds cool, but we also have no idea what it means. I would like to propose that if you need a new word for something, an option available to you is to take an adjective and turn it into a noun (as "intrinsic" was above). Chances are that no-one will have done it before, so you will have your new noun. And it will have the advantage of sounding esoteric. But as with most esoteric words, it can turn off your readers.

For example, suppose you are doing some sociological work, and you need a special term for something that has to do with relationships. What's a similar adjective? How about "relational"? Now treat that as a noun and you've got your new word: a relational. The relational in the blah blah. Several relationals. Relationals in the Historical Contexts of Social Agent Consciousness.

Relational isn't a noun in the dictionary. It's all yours.

Another example. You are writing a paper on poetry or some sort of imaginative literature, and you need a special term for things that are fantastic or out of this world. You choose the adjective "atypical". Turn it into a noun: Atypicals in Dante's Purgatorio. The atypical shown above is the blah blah. A characteristic example of an atypical is Dante's use of...

Atypical ain't no noun in the dictionary. It's all yours, baby.

Adjectives which have been turned into nouns (which shall henceforth be known as potents) work better for some adjectives than others. For example, if we examine the thesaurus for synonyms for changeable, we see that "fickles", "uncertains", and "varyings" don't make great potents, whereas "transitionals", "commutatives", and "spasmodics" are more promising. They have that technical, hard-to-understand vibe to them.

I suspect that adjectives ending in -ic, -al, -ent (think referent), and a short list of others would make good candidates for potents.


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