Creating new words

“Mutancy” shows up in Craig D. Lindsey’s review today of “X-Men: The Last Stand.” A colleague wondered if we should use a word that isn’t in the dictionary. I argued that it was fine to use a made-up word, as long as it followed a legitimate form: vacant, vacancy; truant, truancy; mutant, mutancy. I even joked that Lindsey would get credit in future dictionaries for coining the word. However, it appears that “mutancy” is in the movie’s script.

“Mutancy” is in almost all the reviews of this movie, too. The inciting incident in the plot is a cure that could turn the mutants, which is what the heroes of the movie are, into regular humans. Some reviews avoided the term. The New York Times’ review refers to “a cure for the mutant gene.” The Washington Post says “a cure for mutantism,” which isn’t in regular dictionaries either. I like the way this review in Entertainment Weekly refers to the cure restoring “normalcy.”

But “mutancy” is widespread among the reviewers and reporters wrting about the X-Men movie. This review even has a pun on the word in the headline: Mutancy on the Bounty. See this link for a “mutancy” search on Google news.

Here is a discussion of the made-up word on a blog.

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.