Monday, May 20, 2019 | ePaper

Unlock your linguistic creativity

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Moses Ma :
A sign of deep creativity is the ability to create new words on the fly. Consider William Shakespeare… he invented over 2000 words! He made up words like advertising, bloodstained, cold-blooded, epileptic, fashionable, hobnob, moonbeam, new-fangled, puking, swagger, worthless, zany. Words that have withstood the test of time.
But why do we care about making up words? Because it works. Wordplay will get people pay attention to what you wrote. Particularly compelling new words. The goal is to invent words that evoke the idea of something new and vital. Half of the art of branding is learning how to free your creativity with words.
As an example, here are some neologisms that I just made up, for the world of blockchains…
Innovote - this refers to novel approaches to voting and group decision making, now emerging, that are useful in blockchain governance. For example, the flavor of the day is "quadratic voting" - developed by authors Steve Lalley, and professor at the University of Chicago and Glen Weyl from Microsoft - which is a way for groups to make decisions together that achieves the greatest possible good for the greatest number of group members. By shifting only one letter in the word innovate, it leverages some of its energy into the new word.
Blocksplain - a portmanteau, of blockchain and explain, that was pretty much destined to happen, given the power of the #metoo movement and the staying power of mansplain. To blocksplain is to explain something about blockchains or cryptocurrencies to a non-technical person in a condescending way that assumes he or she has no knowledge about the topic whatsoever. The reality is that most people actually know more than they're letting on.
Gyptocurrency - this refers to crypto Ponzi schemes promoted by celebrities and a fly by night scammers. Usually, they loudly trumpet use of blockchain technology, but most of the time they don't use any blockchain at all. For example, noted gyptocurrency OneCoin had a "blockchain" that was really nothing more than a glorified Excel spreadsheet and a portal that displayed fake transactions. And instead of experienced engineers and endorsements from known experts, they brazenly show off fake credentials.
This is why it's so great that the blockchain industry is now building a new standard called Verifiable Credentials, which won't let you fake those credentials.
All we can do is hope that these offerings launch as IZO's - an initial zombie offerings - walking dead from the gitgo. Sadly, the intrinsic greed and gullibility of human beings has allowed gyptos to sometimes raise an order of magnitude more money than legitimate ICOs. This is one of the greatest threats to one of the most promising technologies of the 21st century.
Anyway, I could come up with new words all day long. It's fun!
Now, if you want to perfect your ability to come up with fresh and innovative words, there's no better teacher than Shakespeare himself. Here are four ways that the Bard of Avon invented new words:
1.    Change a noun into a verb
If you google "verbing" or even just think about the word "googling", you'll realize this is a pretty common phenomenon. Shakespeare too advantage of this by writing Cleopatra saying, "I'll unhair thy head!" This is happening as we speak in the blockchain world, from decentralization to piloting to forking.
2.    Add prefix to make it fresh and shiny
The formal term for this is agglutination, and you can use it to create words like declutter and neotantra. Shakespeare this principle to make up words like discontent, invulnerable and metamorphize.
The linguistic canvas I'm currently working on is a word sketch for a term that represents the emerging "security token."
In other words, an ICO that brazenly announces, "yeah, I'm a security" and then threatens to grab the SEC by the horns and hold on for dear life. Sort of like financial bull riding. So I've added and "s" to "token", and I'm playing something I'm calling stokenization. I admit that it's a work in progress. The best thing is that you can now call the process of converting your utility ICO into an offering of security tokens with the line "our ICO is getting stoked!"
The worst thing is that it's a mouthful and simply does not taste very good emanating from the lips. It's definitely going to take a couple of iterations to get it right.
3.    Connect words never used together before
Most of my neologisms are portmanteaus, which is the unseemly act of smushing two words together. Like in affluenza (the lack of motivation experienced by people who have inherited large amounts of money) or screenager (the typical adolescent who indulges excessively in screen entertainment) or bromance (a close relationship between two me). It's used commonly in the tech space, from weblogs to fintech, to my faves. I even know an actress who changed her name to Patti Youniverse (yeah google her, she's funny).
This practice is rife in the blockchain industry. Heck, even the word cryptocurrency itself is a portmanteau of cryptography and currency. One cute neologism I've heard is limptech, which refers to technology insufficient to excite and penetrate a market.
You know, like all those alt coins that just make a little change in the Bitcoin source and then re-issued yet another variation of Bitcoin. There are close to 1000 of them now, like little leeches attempting to suck support away from BTC.
4.    Just make up a word
Shakespeare pulled words out of nowhere, like addiction and loneliness. It's probably the highest ambition for a brand, to become a term that describes some new function! Please contribute your suggestions and definitions in the comments below, and don't forget to have fun!

(Moses Ma, a partner at Next Gen Ventures, is co-author of the forthcoming book Agile Innovation).

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