Languages like Klingon and Vulcan from Star Trek are invented languages, yet aren't quite well-developed as Tolkien's - they have a vocabulary, but no grammar or inflection. This is similar to the language Esperanto, one that was created in the 1880s, in the hope (and, in fact, the word Esperanto means one who hopes in Esparanto) that people from different countries could use to communicate with each other. It was a good idea that, like the Sacajawea dollar, never really took off. It's out there in circulation and used by some, but mostly people stash it in their drawers to give to children on their birthdays. "Here honey, a brand new gold language!"
Still other storytellers create semi-languages - languages that contain both English words and made-up words, and I love it when they seep into our own language; I like to do my best to help them along. A few of my favorites:
- Cromulent: One of a surprising number of terms that The Simpsons has coined, meaning acceptable or appropriate. It comes from an episode in which someone comments that the word "enbiggens" in the Springfield town motto isn't a real word. Another character replies "Enbiggens is a perfectly cromulent word." Awesome, awesome word.
- Doubleplus: 1984, meaning something like "very, very." It's a nice, juicy word. I like the totalitarian nature of Orwell's Newspeak; it is completely devoid of creativity, because creativity has become a crime.1984, in many ways, was a novel about the tyranny of efficiency.
- Karass: From Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, meaning a group of people whose lives are interrelated, often without their knowing, because they together must serve a common purpose. As I write this, the idea reminds me a great deal of the characters on Lost.
- Horrorshow: From A Clockwork Orange, meaning good, maybe similar to the slang meaning for epic nowadays. The word does an amazing job of reflecting the culture the novel creates - it's like when you're watching Dead Alive, and the dude shreds his mother with a lawnmower, and you point and laugh because it's freaking epic. I guess with horror movies, the audience are the clockwork oranges - we see things that should make us sick, but we laugh instead. Perhaps that's where it starts?
- Ka: Stephen King, meaning fate. Comes from the Dark Tower series, but shows up elsewhere. I love the term te ka from Hearts in Atlantis, which means "fate friend." Like soulmate, only without the romantic implication. We don't have a word for te ka in our language, which makes this an especially cromulent word.