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NONCE WORD

NONCE WORD, also nonce-word [From MIDDLE ENGLISH for the nanes, metanalysis of *for then anes for the one (thing), present-day for the nonce for the time being, for the work in hand. In medieval poetry, variants of the word nonce were used to complete lines, often plural and rhyming with bones or stones: ‘Eneas hymself doun layd for the nanis, / And gave schort rest vnto his wery banis’ ( Gavin Douglas, Æneis, 1513).] The term nonce-word was adopted in the preparation of the OED (1884) ‘to describe a word which is apparently used only for the nonce’ (= on one occasion). From this usage have come by analogy such further forms as nonce combination, nonce form, nonce meaning, nonce usage (all often hyphenated). Because of the special functions, ephemerality, and even eccentricity of such usages, it is not easy to exemplify them. Recent occurrences, however, have included the verb to perestroik, formed from the Russian loanword perestroika, as if it were ‘perestroiker’ (one who perestroiks), and the noun Excaliburger, for a hamburger sold at Tintagel in Cornwall, a site associated with the legendary King Arthur, whose sword was called Excalibur. Nonce forms sometimes become regular, widely used words, as with mob in the early 18c, clipped from Latin mobile vulgus (the fickle crowd). See BLEND, BUZZ WORD, NEOLOGISM, ROOT-CREATION, STUNT WORD.

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