idiolect /ˈɪdɪəlɛkt/

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 2.19.44 AMdefinition: the speech habits peculiar to a particular person

I first heard of this word in the introductory course to linguistics in uni and have been pretty much obsessed with it since them. I thought it would be a great word to start with, in building this collection of words.

Idiolect fascinates me, because it concerns the individual. Language concerns the population, the culture, but when you talk about idiolect, you’re talking about how the person, as an individual, chooses to use this word – chooses to use this collection of words. That’s the most fascinating thing to me – that of all 7.5 billion people (this is a cool world population clock you should check out), you have your own idiolect, I have my own idiolect, and no two are the same.

It’s a shame that idiolect is used so rarely, seeming to have peaked in the 1980s. I would have expected it to have increasing usage, seeing that the corpus available to us just keeps on increasing. Especially with the rise of tumblr-poetry (here’s a wonderful poet to start with), the way words are being used have changed so much.

I guess the rate that word-use is changing was really one of the main motives for me to start this blog. If time was rewound to a decade back, I probably would not start a blog like this, simply for the fact that words and their meanings were stable for me. I could read a word on a page or speak a word and have their meanings easily match, no matter who I was speaking to or what I was talking about. Not anymore, I feel like words are slip-sliding out of our grip, and the deconstruction Jacques Derrida talked about is picking up – not gradually but exponentially, and it’s scary as well as fascinating. Until the words fall apart, I’ll keep trying my best to keep them either here, in this space (no idea how long I’ll keep this up) or as always, on scraps of paper – which is somewhat ironic, for they will only be lost again.


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