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The word is not enough

February 4, 2015

Last weekend my sister gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, her second child, making me a proud aunt for the fifth time over. I take particular pride in this ever-growing brood of nieces and nephews, it being the most passive way I can attain praise and congratulations for doing nothing more demanding than being the sister, or sister-in-law, of the people doing all the hard work. My sister has made it especially easy for me this time round, arranging to give birth on the same day as both my mum and her daughter celebrate their birthdays, so I don’t even have an additional date to remember. I applaud her efficiency.

In the interests of efficiency however, I was struck with the notion that, to my knowledge, there was no shorthand way of telling people that I had gained a new addition to my extended family. I appreciate this is probably the definition of a First World Problem, but I could think of no collective word for niece and/or nephew. Whilst a granny can proudly boast she has two grandchildren, or a mother that she has five sons (God help her), poor old Auntie here has to laboriously say she has three nephews and two nieces, whilst screwing up her face in concentration to decide if this is really true or if it’s the other way around. Hang on, three nieces and two nephews. No, wait, I had it right the first time. Oh, you’ve lost interest.

Surely after all these years, I thought, someone must have noticed there is a gaping hole in the market for this collective word, and done something to fill it. If we can come up with a name for someone who creates crosswords (I’m sure everyone has used the word ‘cruciverbalist’ at least once this week), then we must be able to put our literary heads together to find a word for this much-needed term.

So I took it upon myself to solve this pressing problem, and after much deliberation, came up with what I decided was the best word ever for referring to a collection of nieces and nephews – nibling. Do you see what I did there? I took the first letter of both words, and combined it with the word sibling, and in so doing came up with a word that is adorably cute and will create a brand new sub-sector for greeting cards companies.

Satisfied that I had secured myself a footnote in Wikipedia for all eternity, imagining people looking back and saying – “Wow, do you remember when we didn’t have a word for a nibling? Crazy times!” – I wrote up this blog, feeling enormously proud of myself, and my creativity. And then I went on Google.

I am not a journalist, nor do I ever wish to become one, mainly because there is this tiresome thing they are supposed to do called ‘fact checking’ before publication. Imagine my disappointment and despair to learn that there IS actually a collective word for nieces and nephews. And guess what – it’s nibling. NIBLING!

Concerned, I delved a little deeper. I like making up words. Like scimple – for the scab that forms when you pick a pimple. Or belight – for the occasion when you both baffle and delight someone (often by informing them of your brand new word, nibling). I’ve even gone so far as to invent a word to put all these new words in – the alexicon. But they’ve all been thought of before. All of my words, already in the sodding Urban Dictionary. Except for the Alexicon, which is apparently a telecommunications company in Colorado.

I suppose I could feel validated – my thought processes are evidently sound – but rather I feel supremely disappointed that someone else has discovered these words for themselves before me. I suppose the Golden Age of word-mongering, in all likelihood, was many thousands of years ago. I can imagine a particularly distinguished caveman sat in a clearing being presented with objects for his appraisal, scratching his head and proclaiming ‘rock’, ‘bird’, ‘wife’, ‘nintendo’.

And all the local people from the surrounding villages shuffling off to tell the neighbours that henceforth this thing they had been using to poke fires and hit their wives with was a ‘stick’, and being delighted that they could now tell each other they had done so.

I think I would have liked to have been around during these times – I would have had a lot to add (and certainly several more uses for the stick). But I think there is still space in our lives, and our dictionaries, for new words (even if they’re only briefly new to us before we realise some bugger came up with it years ago), and I welcome you all to belight me with yours. The best will assuredly get a place in the alexicon, and be treasured by my many be-scimpled niblings forever more.

From → Blog

One Comment
  1. I once invented an umbrella that conveniently attached to a pushchair handle an could be redirected to keep mum (or Dad) dry whilst simultaneously pushing said chair and groping for a sippy cup at the bottom of the change bag. Sadly a quick glance around the internet turned this up: and my opportunity to find both riches and adoration from scores of no longer bedraggled mothers was lost forever. However I believe you may find a useful new Nibling gift for your sister here. x

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