The Black Author Art of Phrase Coining

My greatest aspiration as a political speech writer will be to “coin a phrase.”

I note that even Nobel Laureate scientists, philosophers, and politicians with other credentials like curing disease, volumes of writing, and leading nations are memorialized with maximum rhapsody when they can be credited with having “coined the phrase."

It must be special to have “coined” a phrase or it wouldn’t be deemed obituary worthy for so many thousands of people.

In Wikipedia, hundreds of hits come up before you can say “coin a phrase.”

Some phrases were clearly a source of great pride for the one who uttered them first. Lord Lytton (1803–1873), an English novelist, poet, playwright, and phrase coiner, is credited with many bestselling and enduring coined phrases including "the great unwashed", "pursuit of the almighty dollar", "the pen is mightier than the sword", and "It was a dark and stormy night".

Those are ones that are well known and quasi-useful for sure.

Some phrases are so common and widely understood it never even occurred to me that they had to be coined in the first place. But I guess it makes sense. One is the phrase "up-to-date", meaning "abreast" of the latest styles and facts. Henry Alfred Pettitt (1848 – 1893) was the British playwright who came up with that one - not sure why he didn’t think the idea could be adequately expressed with previously existing word combinations.

In fact, lots of celebrated coined phrases only make borderline sense to the great swath of us.

John Elliot Burns (1858 – 1943) was an English politician coined the phrase "The Thames is liquid history". Was he talking about boats or beer ?

"The medium is the message" is a phrase coined by a great Castorian thinker, but even the dullest among us who ponder the idea cannot help but conclude that the medium might, at best, be part of the message or an important appendage but not it.

So why did he get tenure for being the person who said it was ?

The phrase coiners who impress me most are those who coin something years before it is useful like clairvoyant TED conference guy Richard Saul Wurman (born in 1935 and still living). He is an American architect and graphic designer who coined the phrase 'Information Architecture”'

He deserves some claim to coining fame, I guess. But does it seem fair that mathematician Doyne Farmer gets credit for coining a phrase “edge of chaos” to describe another guy’s invention - the transition phenomenon discovered by computer scientist Christopher Langton ? Anyway, my mother used the “edge of chaos” thing years earlier at the edge of my bedroom.

Linda Stone (born 1955) is a writer and consultant who coined the phrase "continuous partial attention;" biologist Richard Dawkins coined "God's utility function;” a U.S. DJ named Chris Bangs is credited with coining the phrase "acid jazz"; and in the late 1980s; Paul Stamets an expert in bioremediation using fungi to degrade or sequester contaminants in the environment came up with the word, "Mycoremediation," which is now cited as a coined phrase to describe - guess what - bioremediation using fungi to degrade or sequester contaminants in the environment.

"Bennington Triangle" is a phrase coined not by a guy named Bennington, but by a New England writer named Joseph A. Citro.

I was getting pretty excited about theh possibilities and was ready to coin a phrase of my own
I thought about this one  ? "To Schoin a Phrase: a sentence fragment meaning to coin a phrase with the sole intent of sounding scholarly."  But I wasn't sure where I could use it).

Then I clicked on the phrase “Elegant variation” coined by English schoolteacher Henry Watson Fowler (1858 –1933) who was searching for words to describe the unnecessary use of words to denote something that is already known.

This coined phrase is described as the tool of “the second-rate writers, those intent rather on expressing themselves prettily than on conveying their meaning clearly.”