Sometimes, it’s hard for me to remember a world before the Internet. I grew up in such a time – well, sort of. It was a time at least before the Internet was just a swipe of a smart phone away.
Back then, our computer was a cream-colored behemoth, and our online excursions limited to asking Jeeves.
The same is not true today, with both positive and negative effects. But if nothing else the Internet is good for stumbling across the unusual and the interesting.
Such as “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows,” a blog that has wound its way into the Internet like roots working their way into the earth.
According to the blog, the dictionary is a “compendium of invented words written by John Koenig. Each original definition aims to fill a hole in the language – to give a name to emotions we all might experience but don’t yet have a word for.”
In his first video, Koenig laments: “There’s no word in the English language for the desire to disappear, or the eerie tension of a looming thunderstorm.”
Scrolling through the dictionary’s many entries, I couldn’t help but wonder what words I would create. Perhaps a word to describe looking for something, only to find that it’s in your hand? (Guilty.) Or a word for the feeling in your stomach when you miss a stair?
Maybe for the first example: Mislocation? Or for the other: Stridefall?
Or, maybe I should leave the word-creating to Koenig.
I’ve written before about language. It’s something that’s fascinated me my entire life, literally – at least, according to stories my parents have told me.
They’ve said that when I was very young (like barely walking young), I would pay very little attention to movies. They would mostly be background noise while I played. And my focus would always be on my toys – that is, until the credits. Apparently, then I would become enraptured, watching the words scroll by and giving the screen my full attention.
So, yes, I love words.
I love how we use them so easily and carelessly, day in and day out, until all of a sudden, we don’t. Without warning, our words are transformed into tools of persuasion and passion, of imagination and invention. So much potential is bottled in the sounds we make and in the squiggles and lines that we write.
And that astounds me. It really does.
Because even though we can do so much with language, it still has its shortcomings. I suppose that’s to be expected. Language is, after all, a mirror of the species that has created it: imperfect, but always evolving, always striving for beauty.
Koenig’s blog is just one vessel of that goal. Here are just a few of my favorites that he’s created:
• Keta – an image that inexplicably leaps back into your mind from the distant past;
• Vellichor – the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time;
• Onism – the awareness of how little of the world you’ll experience;
• Adomania – the sense that the future is arriving ahead of schedule;
• Nighthawk – a recurring thought that only seems to strike you late at night;
• Silience – the kind of unnoticed excellence that carries on around you every day;
• Anecdoche – a conversation in which everyone is talking but nobody is listening;
• Sonder – the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own;
• Jouska – a hypothetical conversation that you compulsively play out in your head;
• Moledro – a feeling of resonant connection with an author or artist you’ll never meet;
• Liberosis – the desire to care less about things.
Of course, making up words is nothing new.
According to MentalFloss.com, the following were first used by William Shakespeare: manager, new-fangled, scuffle, swagger, eyeball, dishearten, and cold-blooded.
Though, you don’t have to look all the way back to Elizabethan England to see that we are still sculpting our language. That proof can be found in more recent times, from the flappers of the ‘20s to the frenemies of today.
Language, I suppose, is just one of the ways we prove, again and again, that our past affects our future and that what we do today can, and will, influence other generations.
And isn’t that just the bombdigity?
Reach Sarah Allen at 937-393-3456, ext. 1680, or on Twitter @SarahAllenHTG.