Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Neologoness

Here's a bit of self-conscious word invention, courtesy of a page on the so-clever-we're-almost-too-cute Flickr.com Web site:
Flickr labs have been hard at work creating a way to show you some of the most awesome photos on Flickr.

We like to call it interestingness.

Explore the gorgeousity by choosing a point in time...
Free extra bonus new word included at no charge to you.

(On an entirely extra-linguistic note, I personally find the use of we and especially we like to think or we call it in advertisements kinda oily. But that's just an opinion, not a usage observation.)

I will say that at this exact point in time -- it's early today, perhaps -- I can't think of an existing noun that would substitute for interestingness in place. One would have to recast using interest as an adjective, wouldn't one?

I'll also throw in that the word labs in this kind of context seems to me to be ambidextrous with respect to number. I think we could say either Flickr labs has been hard at work or Flickr labs have been hard at work. In British English, at least, the plural would be preferred always. We Americans often like to think of collective nouns as singularities. Is labs a collective noun? You decide.

4 comments:

paul95 said...

The paragraph asks the question in bold:

"I'll also throw in that the word labs in this kind of context seems to me to be ambidextrous with respect to number. I think we could say either Flickr labs has been hard at work or Flickr labs have been hard at work. In British English, at least, the plural would be preferred always. We Americans often like to think of collective nouns as singularities. Is labs a collective noun? You decide."

IMO, here's the answer:
- Labs, alone, is a non-collective plural noun.
- But "Flickr labs" would, in the U.S., be heard as a singular entity, just like the company I used to work for, called "Wicat Systems." It was always one company, one concept, and so a singular noun, despite the plural second word and its multiple employees. Same with "[Noun] Labs" or "[Noun] Airways" or "[Noun] Airlines" or "[Noun] Software Solutions"

My reasoning is undercut a bit by the fact that the L in labs is lower-cased. I see this not as an intentional way to express "all the labs that we have here at Flickr," but just as an editing mistake.

ArthurLB said...

I'm not quite sure I get you. You say that interest would have to be recast as an adjective, but "interestingness" is a noun, like spaciness and goodness. So a word to take its place would also have to be a noun, like interest. It still wouldn't work as a replacement, but there is no need to recast it at all.

"Gorgeousity" works perfectly, though, and makes sense. Contrived though it may be, it still functions as a valid word.

WordzGuy said...

You're right that interestingness is a noun. What I had in mind (I guess) was that it would have to be a noun phrase with interesting, somehow. (All such phrases that I can imagine sound kind of boring, which isn't what they wanted here, I suppose.) Interest doesn't work, of course; the meaning isn't compatible with what they're trying to capture. But the overall point is that there is no quite equivalent noun, hence the invention of interestingness.

Anonymous said...

The use of we isn't particularly oily if by "we" they mean "we here at Flickr.com," as opposed to "you and I." If they're trying to include me in an opinion I don't necessarily share, that is oily. But I don't think that's the case here.

As for the suffix, -ness generally means "the state of being" whatever precedes it: brightness, darkness, uh, interestingness?

Oddly enough, while interestingness does not appear in the AHD, it does appear in Thesaurus.com, where a host of more suitable synonyms are available. But suitability is no match for originality when you're building a brand.

--JimP