Daily Archives: December 17, 2014


My friend Trish’s daughter Nenya is a neologist. I’ve tasted one of her creations before: scratchative. (Trish’s husband, Jaba, is likely where Nenya inherited this from – he’s the coiner of fugxury, among others.) Today Trish told me of another word Nenya has come up with: clackled.

You probably won’t guess what it means from the sound, although once you know what it means, it may seem suitable – and will surely tell you a little bit about Nenya’s perceptions. It’s obviously formed on a phonaesthematic basis – made of bits that just sound right because of impressions picked up from other words. Kids do that a lot, and adults do it a fair bit too.

Nenya obviously knows inflectional and derivational morphology; she has the –ed ending on the word, making an adjectival past participle and implying a verb clackle or, perhaps, a noun clackled (yes, we can make certain kinds of adjectives by putting –ed on nouns – the kind that signify the noun having been imposed on what it modifies, or being worn by it). Either way, the word means something has happened to its subject.

But Nenya also knows what just sounds right to her. So do most people.

Now, there are all sorts of words this word can bring to mind. Cackle, heckle, tackle, trickle, spackle, pickle, shackle… some of them are formed with the verbal –le frequentative suffix, like dazzle and twinkle; some of them (an overlapping set) involve binding or other forms of physical contact, and some (again overlapping) involve messiness. The cl calls forth cloth, clothes, class, clock, click, clap; some of them are things that may encompass or apply to the skin.

What Nenya uses clackled for is ‘all wrapped and twisted up in bedclothes’. If you’re the sort of person who twists and turns in your sleep, you may wake up with the sheets and covers all twisted around you and difficult to disengage from. To be in this condition is to be clackled.

That interests me. I find clackled rather hard, percussive, like clap and clatter, which bedclothes never are (well, if yours are, maybe don’t tell me about it). But yes, it has the close-to-the-skin cl, and it has the catching mess of ackled. It also crackles as words enjoyed by children often do.

But it’s not to me to say whether I find it suitable or not. Might as well say orange doesn’t seem very orangey. The word is clackled; it is there, and when you are awake to it, you already cannot escape it.