Sniglet is a neologism, popularized by comedian/actor Rich Hall during his tenure on the 1980s HBO comedy series Not Necessarily the News. Each episode of the monthly series featured a regular segment on sniglets, which Hall described as "any word that doesn't appear in the dictionary, but should". Hall's own sniglets, along with submissions by fans, were compiled into several books, starting with Sniglets and More Sniglets.
In 1984, a collection of sniglets was published, titled Sniglets (snig' lit: any word that doesn't appear in the dictionary, but should). It was followed by a "daily comic panel" in newspapers, four more books, a game, and a calendar. The books have their entries arranged in alphabetical order like a dictionary, with information on how to pronounce the word, followed by a definition, and sometimes accompanied by an illustration. The original book had two appendices, "Anatomical Sniglets" and "Extra Added Bonus Section for Poets" (a sniglet that rhymed with orange). More Sniglets has an "Audio-Visual Sniglets" section; the rest had no such appendices. All five books had an "Official Sniglets Entry Blank," beginning, "Dear Rich: Here's my sniglet, which is every bit as clever as any in this dictionary." The first four books listed all the contributors after the dedication page.
The Game of Sniglets involved creating new sniglets, in addition to trying to guess the "true sniglet". In the "Playing Instructions," there are ideas on "How to Create a Sniglet" which include (1) combination (blend), (2) spelling change (altering a word related to the definition), (3) pure nonsense word, or (4) a "take-off on a well known product" (a spelling change to a trademark). However, any method was acceptable.
Sniglets and society
In a 1990 interview, Hall was asked if the "Sniglets books [were] completely for comic value?" He answered,
Books such as A Handbook for Substitute Teachers (1989) by Anne Wescott Dodd and Reading and Language Arts Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites : 20 Literacy Strategies That Engage the Brain (2005) by Marcia L. Tate bear out his claim; they suggest creating sniglets as a classroom activity.
Popular English language experts such as Richard Lederer and Barbara Wallraff have noted sniglets in their books, The Miracle of Language and Word Court: Wherein Verbal Virtue Is Rewarded, Crimes Against the Language Are Punished, and Poetic Justice Is Done respectively. More recently, the idea has been "borrowed" by Barbara Wallraff for her new book Word Fugitives: In Pursuit of Wanted Words, where "word fugitives" is her term for invented words. Wallraff's Atlantic Monthly column "Word Fugitives" features words invented by readers, although they must be puns, which many sniglets are not.
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