Before you blister your fingers flipping through the dictionary in search of a definition for the most prominent word on this month's cover, you should know that "classworking" is not a word. I made it up.
I was sitting at my desk one day, trying to figure out the best way to communicate the idea that America's college classrooms are important incubators of work-related presentation skills (as opposed to places where students learn how to drink and doodle) when it suddenly hit me: Why not cram the words class and work together and dangle one of those ing endings off the end to make a word that sounds like a word but really isn't? It's the sort of inspiration that can only happen after stoking your brain with 12 cups of coffee and a large bag of peanut M&Ms. So before you start making up words on your own, be forewarned that there may be certain gastronomical consequences.
Normally, I don't have much patience for people who go around stretching nouns into verbs, as though words were their own personal Play-Doh. But in this case, the one doing the stretching is me, so I don't mind so much. Also, I have a larger personal goal in mind. Some people want to get into the Guinness Book of World Records by seeing how many oysters they can eat in a sitting. Others want to make their mark on the world by inventing a way for pets to use the family toilet. I, on the other hand, want to invent an important word, so that I can see my name next to an entry in the famed Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the language's most hallowed Bible.
This may seem like an odd aspiration, but it's not as odd as you might think. Judging from the number of words invented in the business world on an almost daily basis, there actually seems to be quite a bit of competition in this arena. You've probably noticed that nothing follows a trend anymore; things are said to be trending upward or downward, depending on the value of one's stock options. People don't raise kids anymore; they are into parenting. And in the dot-com world, all you have to do to communicate is add an e- to the beginning of each word, which is really just a high-tech form of pig-Latin.
Words we'd like to see
But as far as I'm concerned, these are just amateur stabs at the word-invention game. I, on the other hand, am a professional. Although, admittedly, the OED editors have yet to take notice of my efforts, here are a few choice words I think would be useful additions to any presenter's vocabulary:
Projecticulate: A blend of the words projector and gesticulate that refers to the body language of a presenter whose laptop refuses to sync to a projector five minutes before his audience is due to arrive.
PowerPoisoning: A debilitating brain disease caused by overexposure to PowerPoint slides. Very difficult to diagnose, because the symptoms so closely resemble sleep.
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzipit: A word to be used when talking to a professional speaker who wants to write a book with the words dazzle, sizzle, and pizzazz in the title.
Backupchuck: What happens when your hard drive fries on the day of the big presentation and you realize you haven't saved your files on the network or anywhere else.
Laryngeewhymeitis: The certainty of knowing you are the only person on the planet who wakes up on the morning of an important presentation with a sore throat and a sudden need for room service to deliver a bag of cough drops.
Stretchificatiability: The ability to stretch 10 minutes worth of material into an all-day seminar for which people are willing to pay $1,500, with no lunch included.
Wizdumb: The sort of advice about life one gets from best- selling books that reduce complex psychosocial behavior dynamics to metaphors about mice moving cheese.
Of course, these are just a few of the words missing from the current edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, and I daresay there are more where they came from.
Anyone can play the word-invention game, in fact. If you are a reader of this magazine who is so inclined, I encourage you to e-mail me with your suggestions for words that ought to exist in the presentation world but don't — yet. If we get enough of them, maybe we'll publish them in an upcoming issue of Presentations, or just go ahead and print our own dictionary — one with words no one can ignore.