Bringing Made-Up Words to Life: Coffeeneuring and Errandonnee
I don’t mean to shock anyone, but the words “coffeeneuring” and “errandonnee” are totally made-up words. That’s right, both are fake words used to describe activities that people do on bicycles.
These terms were born out of similar circumstances.
Coffeeneuring: A Seattle randonneur said he’d like to earn a medal by riding his bike to the coffee shop. I thought I should run a contest through this blog that offered such a medal. Felkerino and I tossed phrases around our living room about what to name said contest. The result was “coffeeneuring,” a combination of coffee and randonneuring.
Errandonnee: I wanted to host a winter transportation-based challenge around doing errands. I’d come up with the word “utilitaire,” but it didn’t sound quite right. During a bike ride with our friend Eric P., we exchanged ideas about what such a contest should be called. What regular word and randonneuring word could be melded together just so? “Errandonnee. Errand plus randonnée,” our friend Eric said. We all agreed it worked.
Coffeeneuring has been a fake word for more than three years, and errandonnee is going on two-plus. While some linguistic purists surely shake their finger at my audacity to invent words, generally people seem to like them.
It’s much easier to say “I’m coffeeneuring,” as opposed to “I’m riding my bike to get coffee.” As for errandonnee? It’s tricky to spell, but fun to say, and wraps two concepts into one delightful word. And I don’t know when I’ll tire of saying “Errandonnee is a word with triple double letters.”
These two words emerged in fits of brainstorming. Both are examples of three minds thinking more creatively than one– unless you don’t like these words, in which case they show you that three minds can come up with truly unfortunate combinations of symbols and sounds.
Most of the feedback I’ve received about errandonnee and coffeeneuring is positive. People have even nabbed both errandonnee and coffeeneuring as domain names.
Someone wrote that they had originally heard of coffeeneuring through the New York Times, but they could no longer find the news article. Some have attributed the creation of both coffeeneuring and errandonnee to other people or sources.
When I learn of these situations, my instinctive reaction is grumpy and egotistical. “Those words originated on Chasing Mailboxes,” I think indignantly. “I’m not getting credit for these made-up words, ” I say, even though it took three of us to come up with the original word, anyway.
I’m transported back to graduate school where we explored the importance of sharing knowledge freely in an effort to create better ideas, products, and organizations. Then someone threw a wrench into our knowledge sharing theories by saying people gotta eat and what about the commodification and ownership of ideas if that’s your meal ticket. However, I’m not inventing words for profit; I just want them to be used and understood by people.
I know others who have poo poo’d my made-up words, remarking that they diminish the significance of randonneuring. It reminds me of my university days as a language and linguistics major and intense discussions with those who believed that simultaneously coding in two languages was dé classé– an affront to the pureness of language.
I don’t view language as static or pure. It is meant to evolve and change over time, depending on the circumstances of the day, the needs of communities, and as people look for ways to effectively share information with each other.
Over time, new words come into being and people adopt distinct ways of coding. I’m not claiming that the words errandonnee and coffeeneuring need to exist for the sake of humanity’s growth, but these words are not inherently bad or intended to minimize randonneuring. In addition, their ability to neatly combine two ideas into one word gives them a practical implication, at least in my eyes.
Some have suggested that I could monetize the Coffeeneuring and Errandonnee Challenges by securing local (or broader) sponsorship and selling souvenirs such as t-shirts. In my mind, that is not true to the spirit of these activities.
These challenges are about connecting to others through everyday, low- to no-cost activities. Hopefully they serve as an encouragement to be outside on our bikes. The challenges offer a virtual space to share simple moments with each other, free from commercial backing.
Now that the made-up errandonnee and coffeeneuring have had time to soak in the world, people have begun to use them and developed their own ideas about them. It’s surreal to watch something you created expand and take on its own life.
The words have become somewhat uncontrollable in many ways, and that occasionally disconcerts. Like I said earlier, a small part of me liked to think that I owned these words, that credit for their existence belonged with me.
Generally, though, seeing errandonnee and coffeeneuring increase their radius has been exciting to watch. I’ve connected to people I would likely not know otherwise. I see other people’s quirky, sometimes comic, creative interpretations of the errandonnee and coffeeneuring and I’m struck by their observations. People have embraced coffeeneuring and the errandonnee, and given them meaning and life.