The journey that a made-up word takes from invention to induction into a dictionary — be it Oxford Online or Merriam Webster’s even more selective print edition — is arduous.
For the latter, decades worth of frequent use is needed, except in the rare instances that a language trend spreads quickly, but doesn’t die out. This is why selfie has made its way into the long-lasting print editions, but twerk, a blip on our linguistic radar, hasn’t passed the more ephemeral online book.
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows — a blog that evangelizes new words by constructing faux entries and accompanying videos — has collected a few contenders. In its first video, creator John Koenig narrates, “There’s no word in the English language for the desire to disappear, or the eerie tension of a looming thunderstorm […] or the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.”
It’s true that each language has its shortcomings. In English, for example, there’s no single word that describes the light that flits between tree leaves when you pass them by; the Japanese equivalent is komorebi. Nor is there a word for an act we partake in often — continuing to eat once we’re already full. In Georgia, the word for that is shemomedjamo.
In an attempt to bridge the gap between language and the way we connect with one another — especially emotionally — Koenig proposes that we add the following words, plus many more, to our lexicon:
n. the desire to care less about things — to loosen your grip on your life, to stop glancing behind you every few steps, afraid that someone will snatch it from you before you reach the end zone — rather to hold your life loosely and playfully, like a volleyball, keeping it in the air, with only quick fleeting interventions, bouncing freely in the hands of trusted friends, always in play.
n. a recurring thought that only seems to strike you late at night — an overdue task, a nagging guilt, a looming and shapeless future — that circles high overhead during the day, that pecks at the back of your mind while you try to sleep, that you can successfully ignore for weeks, only to feel its presence hovering outside the window, waiting for you to finish your coffee, passing the time by quietly building a nest.
n. a feast celebrated on the day of your 26th birthday, which marks the point at which your youth finally expires as a valid excuse — when you must begin harvesting your crops, even if they’ve barely taken root — and the point at which the days will begin to feel shorter as they pass, until even the pollen in the air reminds you of the coming snow.
For more should-be words, take a look at The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.
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