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Custom Etymology

Write a story or a scene about someone inventing a new word—or, alternatively, giving an existing word a new meaning.

[Don’t miss your chance to enter the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition! Impress us with your best story in 1500 words or fewer. Deadline extended to Jan. 15.]

This week's prompt—which is blessedly devoid of mysterious birds—has to do with a particular passion of mine: etymology. That is, the history of how different words came to be. In my spare time, I research word origins and put together silly blog posts and tweets about them. It's a fascinating topic with endless discoveries just waiting to be made.

For instance, did you know that the word“Arctic”comes from the Greek arktos, meaning “bear”? That's because the constellation Ursa Major, “the greater she-bear” (also known as the Big Dipper), is always visible in the northern polar sky. “Antarctic,” then, means “opposite the bear.”

Another fun one: the word "frolic”comes from the Middle Dutch word vrolyc, meaning “happy,” which is a combination of vro-, meaning “merry, glad,” and lyc, meaning “like” (as in “similar”). The root word *preu-, meaning “to hop,” which is also the root of the word “frog,” gives “frolic” the sense of “jumping for joy.”

This week, I challenge you to take the science of etymology to a new level. I'm going to leave this one fairly open-ended, so you can do whatever you'd like with it.

The Prompt: Write a story or a scene about someone inventing a new word—or, alternatively, giving an existing word a new meaning.

Post your response in 500 words or fewer in the comments below.

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