The Simplificator

Is “complexifier” a word?

Here’s a piece of context: language and everything rolled up into it – reading, writing, comprehension, spelling, pronunciation, and so on – is wholly dependent on context.

Punch “complexifier” it into your word processor and you’re likely looking at a squiggly red line. Is it a word? Not technically. Here is the oddity of our Modern English Language: words tend to cross the boundaries defined by parts of speech all of the time.

Ten years ago, “twitter” was primarily a verb. Now? Not so much.

In 1871 Lewis Carroll – no slouch of the pen himself – jotted out this little thing we call the “Jabberwocky.” The poem was about 1/3 complete nonsense. Your 9th grade Language Arts instructor likely dragged it out of the lesson plan as a way to teach the more “inventive” side of parts of speech. It read a little something like this:

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.


“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

The frumious Bandersnatch!”


It went on for a bit more. 

“Complexify” is also not a word, but the context of the word “complex” gets us moving in the right direction. Complexify: to make something more complex.

Therein, “complexifier” is the thing which is making something more complex.

Why bring this up? Does it matter if a word is a word? The side of my brain frequently employed as a copy editor gets itchy whenever I open 90% of the internet. Why not bring to light the one catch-all rule of language – not just grammar – which has served as the glue that keeps the ship of language together:

So long as it is not a chore for someone else to read, then it is probably fine.

The key here: someone else. re-reading your own work is somewhat futile, as your brain fills in all the gaps you forgot to fill. Your ego provides the context and makes whatever you just wrote probably not-fine.

Complexifier may never have been a word unless Bezos and Bezos himself was the one to introduce it.In Bezos’s use: “Here’s a piece of context: My ownership of the Washington Post is a complexifier for me.”

A copy editor would have rushed about to say “My ownership of the Washington Post makes my position in this situation more complicated.” Yet, if it was published as such, there wouldn’t be THOUSANDS of op-ed pieces about the very word he used.

The takeaway: if you want to make a point, then have some fun with the gift of language Odin hath bestowed upon you. If you want a very specific point to land in the ear of your reader, then keep it simple and stay within the lanes.

I originally posted this on my blog. Also, I finally fixed by blog and I think it’d be swell of you to visit.

David Pennington
David Pennington

Writing would be great if it weren't the only thing I knew how to do. I publish as much as I can, you'll just have to wait for the rest.  

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