Making up words is fun, but most of the ones I make up aren’t good words. They’re usually just weird noises while I’m trying to describe things to my children. Like “Hold the flusher down until the toilet glugurgles.”
But, I’ve recently come across John Koenig who’s creating a multimedia Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. As he describes it, “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.” And unlike me, he doesn’t just make stuff up willy-nilly. “Each word actually means something etymologically, having been built from one of a dozen languages or renovated jargon,” Koenig says.
And some of his words are great.
So I thought over the next month or so, I’d share my favorites.
An obvious good one is:
(n.) the strange wistfulness of used bookshops.
Because that is a real thing.
Used clothing stores don’t feel wistful. Musty maybe, but not wistful.
Pawn shops don’t feel wistful. Sad, but the sadness is tinged with a “I might get tetanus if I touch that” sort of feeling.
The wistfulness is only found in used bookstores.
This second word is one I’m particularly susceptible to at the moment. In the last month we moved to a new city and although we are settling in — at least I’ve stopped getting dizzy during the Kitchen Waltz where I spin around opening cabinet after cabinet before finding the thing I needed — it still doesn’t feel like home. It’s starting to, just a bit around the edges, but I still felt a strong connection to the next word.
(n.) the subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place.
And if I’m honest, it doesn’t take moving to a new city to feel this one. There are just times when that “out of place” feeling can’t quite be shaken.
What do you think? Did John Koenig make up some good words?