Coining a phrase

Summary nominalisations can be used on the fly to refer to all sorts of different processes and qualities. But in every field or topic there are important processes that are written about over and over, and for these processes we use special agreed-on terminology, known as coinages.

This snippet introduces a coinage related to the way your brain processes information:

An important way that our brain deals with standard situations is that it extracts those elements that are common to multiple situations and creates a framework within which to place them; this framework is called a schema.

You’re probably familiar with all sorts of coinages, for example you might know ‘the greenhouse effect’, ‘the Industrial Revolution’, ‘photosynthesis’, ‘universal suffrage’...

Here's another example of a coinage being introduced.

Marcial Losada has done extensive studies on the impact of positive and negative interactions on team dynamics. He has found that the optimum ratio for high-performance teams is five positive interactions for every negative interaction. This is known as the "Losada ratio."

Some common ways coinages are created:

  • Nominal suffixes (‘ocean acidification’).
  • Acronyms (‘ACHOO syndrome’).
  • People’s names (‘Darwinism’).
  • Metaphor (‘the greenhouse effect’).
  • Repurposing a run-of-the-mill word (like ‘schema’) and giving it a new, specific meaning.
  • Or any number of other methods. 

Writing using coinages relies on building knowledge about a topic and learning the terms people use (or knowing when you’re in a position to make your own).

That’s out of scope for this lesson, but there are a couple of things you should take away from this page:

  • Coinages bundle up complex information into an easy-to-use package (for the writer and other topic-experts, anyway).
  • Coinages come in many different forms. Humans can be very creative when it comes to inventing new words.
  • You can often spot the important ones early in a text. Look for phrases like ‘is called’, ‘is known as’, ‘which is’, introducing key terms and what they mean.
  • When you use coinages in your own writing, think about whether you need to define them for your audience.
Just for fun, make up a new word for the event or process you described on the last page. (We've pasted a copy of your response.)