Living Dictionary Project
message & invitation from the builder of this website:
I am a poet and idea maker. I had an idea (or it had me)
to gather and create words for nourishment. The idea was crawling all around me telling me its name. I said yes to the Living Dictionary before I could see its shape or face. This is an invitation to participate in the Living Dictionary project. The words on this website (found under the tab) are a collection of words created by different people (click the word to find out who invented it. Click the name of the person to see if they have a linked website).
The Living Dictionary is a multi-dimensional prompt, invitation, body of word invention, imagination, and collaboration. It lives here, and in the physicality of bound paper.
It lives in air, breath, tongue-to-tooth-to palate-to-velum,
dream and consciousness. A living, growing, flexible life form -
gathering words and meaning. Or a beast. The Living Dictionary is a participant;
a co-creator of its own being - asking us questions, guiding us, informing us, teasing us.
Waking us in the darkest night, to welcome what we cannot see.
What we could not see before now.
What does it mean to be a word? Not all words are written or spoken. What if a word asks to be an image or movement? How can we have flexibility,
in an already existing language like English, to make space for that word
without trying to capture, categorize, quantify, and regulate?
As poets, artists and inventors in a time of pandemic how is language
calling on us to expand and evolve? What novel words do we
need to navigate, cultivate and transform our realities?
As a white cisgendered woman living in a racialized society-
I am investigating the ways in which I am blinded by my own privilege,
socialization and relationship to language. Settler colonial, capitalist systems
depend on a subliminal agreement among the people to remain within
the confines of their creation. These systems are maintained by the suppression
of radical imagination and by emotional, intellectual and spiritual submissiveness.
The Living Dictionary is a form of resistance to those systems.
The Living Dictionary aims to be a decolonial, antiracist, feminist project.
It offers an opportunity to both interrogate and build-on the English that many of us use daily; a language that was violently forced upon the people in this land and many others across the world. This is not an effort to create a new language, but to
invent new words. To define and redefine. To name the specific violences any of us experience, witness and in which we participate. To write-in accountability.
What are the words that will hold us the way we need to be held,
honor our complexities and encourage our wilderness.
If you would like to contribute to the Living Dictionary please send your word
by clicking "word submission" and filling out a word invention form.
This project is a collective work, intended as a liberatory practice
which explores the power of words, how words are shared,
shaped, celebrated and brought into the publics.
All of the words on the Invented Words page are available for public use.
Thank you to everyone who contributed words to the Living Dictionary.
- Ella Engel-Snow, June 2020