|What Is The Word........|
This short essay is not about origami – paper folding, it is about origami – the word. It is a piece about the usage of language and a plea for help.
For most of its recorded history the English language has picked up any foreign words it found useful and just stuck them into its own vocabulary to use as and when it sees fit. E.g. pork (Norman-French) schadenfraude (German), camouflage (French), khaki (Urdu), anorak (Inuit), tattoo (Polynesian), sushi-chef (½ Japanese ½ French for goodness sake!) and so on. Some of these words work as nouns, verbs, and/or adjectives in whatever context you may care to put them.
And some of them do not. Origami is one such word.
Let me explain. One takes a piece of paper and folds it into a flapping bird, a box, a dinosaur or whatever. So far, so good. What one has folded is, specifically, a flapping bird, a box, a dinosaur, or a whatever. But what does one have in general?
If you have a cardboard box of the stuff or a whole gallery of exhibits, it’s easy, it is a box of origami or an exhibition of origami. No problem. The word origami works as a plural noun but not as a singular.
Musicians call the stuff they produce, music, a song, a tune. A poet writes and performs an ode, a poem, a threnody, an artist, a drawing, a painting, a sketch, an author, a book, a story, a novel etc.
An origamist folds a….piece of origami??...seems a bit clumsy to me. I want a single word that describes this folded bit of paper as the creative work that it is, or at least trying, to be.
Let’s look at some possible ideas;
A model - This is the most obvious choice and the one that is used most often. But it seems to me that it does not do the finished folded thing justice. I think that what we origamists make is more important than a mere model, my apologies to any model makers out there.
A fold – I don’t like this as, a fold, is a very specific thing. The finished work is likely to have more than one fold in it anyway. A book is not referred to as, a word. A tune is not, a note.
An origami – I don’t think this will do at all. It sounds completely wrong. Try saying a couple of sentences with “an origami” in them and you will see what I mean.
A work – Too, too pretentious by a long way. It’s beginning to sound very arty-farty and too vague. Where "model" was too ordinary, "work" is too poncy.
I’m afraid that this is where I’ve run out of ideas. If anyone has any suggestions please, let me know.
And, while we are on the subject of origami, the word, and its place and usage in the English language, what would be an appropriate and witty collective noun for a group of origamists?