In John Barnes' Jak Jinnaka series, which currently includes three novels starting with The Duke of Uranium, the characters speak a future variety of English that's peppered with unfamiliar words. (You can read the first chapter here.) The meaning of these words is almost always recoverable from context, so Barnes could have just made them all up out of whole cloth, but many of them are actually borrowings from various other languages or clever coinages. Here's some of the new words I've noticed:
masen: Right? Don't you think? (Marks tag questions.)
Ex: "There's usually a couple like that every year, masen?" (p. 19)
This one comes from Japanese. It's the present tense negative verbal inflection (or possibly auxiliary verb—traditional grammatical terminology doesn't always fit Japanese very well) in the normal polite mode. It's surprising that Barnes uses this morpheme the way he does, since Japanese already has a sentence-final particle that marks this kind of sentence: ne. I wonder why he didn't use that instead (assuming he knows about it)—the meaning of sentence like "It's pretty hot, ne?" seems pretty transparent to me, but then, I've been studying Japanese...
toktru: Truly, true, really.
Ex: "It's not such a big deal anymore. Toktru it's not." (p. 25)
At first I thought this wasn't a borrowing, since it's pretty clearly derived from the English words talk and true. The spelling of tok- rung a bell, though, so I went and found an online dictionary for Tok Pisin, a creole language spoken in Papua New Guinea that's partly based on English. Tok tru apparently means "truth" or "speak the truth" in Tok Pisin. Kudos to Barnes for borrowing from a non-obvious language.
Ex: "He was Jak's toktru tove, and had always been..." (p. 10)
No prizes for guessing that this comes from the Russian tovarich meaning "comrade". It's probably not a reference to "Jabberwocky".
zybot: One of a number of conspiracies that attempts to engineer society to suit its social/political/economic theories.
Ex: "He realized that social engineering zybots were much more interesting in fiction than they were in school" (p. 68)
This word at first looks like it might be somehow related to robot, but it's not. It's derived from zaibatsu, a Japanese word referring to large business conglomerates that existed before WWII. See the Wikipedia article for more details, and check out Bruce Sterling's Schismatrix for more science-fictional zaibatsus.
malph: Bad guy, malefactor.
Ex: "One malph out of the melee, anyway." (p. 53)
This one's pretty straightforward English-based skiffy-speak, I wanted to mention it in order to dispell any notion that Barnes might be referencing Happy Days.
heet: Person, guy.
Ex: "A smart heet like me could make sergeant pretty quick..." (p. 16)
I suspect that this is also a borrowing from Japanese, specifically of the word hito, "person". This might be wrong, though, because of the following word...
pokheet: Police officer.
Ex: "...or being a pokheet—hassling teenagers to keep them from doing stuff that looks like harmless fun to me." (p. 21)
If heet means "person", then pok- must somehow mean "police", but I'm not sure where it comes from. I doubt it's from the English word pokey, although I guess that's possible. It's not from the Japanese word for "police officer", keisatsu, and this makes me suspect that heet might not be from Japanese either.
Ex: "[Earth is] a giant collection of pocks in superhigh grav." (p. 20)
At first I thought this might be a word like "jerk" or Heinlein's immortal "groundhog", but later mentions of "beaches around those pocks" and of "pock clusters" exploded that theory. It turns out to be the perfectly ordinary English word pock. [Minor spoilers] Some time before Barnes' story, Earth was attacked with relativistic projectiles (fifty a day for more than fifty years) by an invading alien species, and everywhere above latitude 21° S is covered with craters.
singing-on: Exactly, very.
Ex: "...it was perfectly chosen and singing-on right for her." (p. 23)
This is probably just the English words singing and on, but it's interesting because, although the way Barnes uses it has nothing to do with the meaning of those words, it makes perfect sense to me. Is this a reference to a song or an aphorism that I'm not consciously remembering?
gwont: Old person.
Ex: "...even if he wasn't a bad old gwont on the personal level." (p. 4)
This one might come from the (originally Greek) prefix geronto-, but I'm not certain. Any other ideas?
Ex: "Teacher Fwidya said you couldn't not dak the idea, because it was so central to the way everyone thought about the world..." (p. 3)
Ex: "...we know that the whole solar system daks the Wager..." (p. 4)
speck: See, know, understand.
Ex: "Jak specked it was a sinecure for teachers who really enjoyed hassling younger people with statements of the obvious." (p. 3)
Ex: "...the genies had never specked the singing-on ratio between control muscles and main muscle masses for that breed..." (p. 4)
I've listed these together because they're very close in meaning. Dak seems to be used with a meaning more like "understand completely", and I wonder if it's a modification of Heinlein's grok—Barnes, like John Varley, seems to have thoroughly absorbed Heinlein's works. Speck seems to have a wider range of meaning, and is probably cognate with the Indo-European root spek meaning "observe". (It reminds me of Burgess' viddy.)
gweetz: Idiot, jerk.
Ex: "Jak had, and he felt like a complete gweetz."
feets: Legal rights, legal majority.
Ex: "Twelve more minutes of gen school. Then, at long last, they'd get their feets..."
Ex: "Humans got feelings from evolution, and we're free and wild and have our feets."
Ex: "She's not my demmy and I'm not her mekko and we won't be again. All over."
The meanings of all these words are clear from their context, but I don't have any clues as to their origin. It's possible gweetz is somehow related to gwont, but that's just a guess based on the first two letters. Any bright ideas?
Aside: I've read the first two books in this series, and although they're fun and enjoyable adventure stories in a lot of ways, there's a kernel of ugliness in Barnes' fictional universe and characters that I find disturbing. Especially in the second book, Jak begins to find that the people he trusts and the social system he lives under aren't as nice as they seemed at first. This could certainly make for interesting character growth, but Barnes can't seem to decide between writing old-school adventure SF in the mold of Heinlein's juveniles and slipping in sexual violence and torture. It's a problem I have with several of his books, including Finity (slightly ugly), Mother of Storms (even uglier), and Kaleidoscope Century (relentlessly repellant). This habit apparently led some wag on Usenet to propose Pete's Law: "Avoid Barnes books if they involve sodomy." The Jak Jinnaka books haven't quite triggered the Law yet, and I intend to read at least the third one, but I'm worried.
[Now playing: "Grow Up and Blow Away" by Metric]
[Update: Oh, fer chrissake—"John Barnes' Jak Jinnaka novels, which currently include three novels..."? Does anyone proofread these posts before they go up?]