How do you name the satisfying feeling of knowing someone has taken care of your loved one in your absence? How do you express the feelings of longing and sadness that accompany you after leaving a place that you visited for even a few days? The English language may not have enough words for them and so many other feelings we all have.
English is indeed a restrictive language. By restrictive, I mean it doesn’t have the scope for giving you the right words to express what you are actually feeling inside. English dictionary often lacks enough and the right words to give voice to your feelings. Take, for example, the word love. You love travelling and you love your parents. But there is a distinction between the kind of and degree of love you have for both. You can’t say you love your parents and roaming the world in one breath. You can, of course, say you like travelling, instead of love. But then like doesn’t convey the degree of your likeness for the activity. Like is a very light word and love is very deep- both can’t be used in the example of travelling.
This is what frustrated American author John Koenig and he decided that he will not settle with the limitations provided by his language. So he came up with interesting words that exactly convey our various inner feelings. He created the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows which combines ancient languages with the modern tongue, giving us something new and very relatable.
Here are 10 words from the dictionary by John Koenig.
We all have at some point in our lives, thought of strangers we pass by on streets as those we can identify with, having the same story as us. This is what Sonder means. To feel a connectedness with people on the road; feel oneness with the world and know you are not alone.
This word is taken from ancient Roman language and refers to the hallway that connects the front of the house with a complex inner atrium. John Koenig took this word to mean how long it takes to get to know a person. The starting conversation is like entering the hallway and stopping there. A couple of conversations only lets you into different anterooms, revealing a different layer of the person’s personality. This slow knowing process only makes you feel frustrated to find out about the ‘real’ person and his/her secrets. You wish to enter the deepest inner atrium in the first meeting itself and then see the hallway and other rooms of the person’s personality.
Nightbirds, here’s a word to describe your feelings of joy and enthusiasm when you are awake in the middle of the night. Nyctous is the overjoyed feeling at the thought of being the only one awake in the middle of the night, enjoying the silence and soaking in the burst of creativity coming your way.
This word is taken from Nyctocereus, which is a type of cactus that blooms only at night.
Although I don’t really like the sound of this word, it finds a mention here because it’s related to books. Vellichor refers to a bookstore filled with thousands of dust-collecting books that you might never read. It is the frustration of having so many books in front of you and yet not having the time or passion for reading them.
This word is a combination of Vellum meaning ‘parchment’ and Ichor meaning the ‘fluid flowing in the veins of the gods in Ancient Greek mythology’.
You are expressing yourself but can’t look at yourself – how your body and face are synchronising with your words. You are basically stuck in your head and can’t perceive how you are coming across. This is Povism.
This word is coined by adding ‘ism’ to Point of View (POV).
Me and bestie’s friendship is Lilo. It means we can be not in touch for days and even months and yet when we talk or meet, there’s no lull in the conversation, no awkward pauses- just feel good, heart-to-heart talk as if we are picking up from where we left just yesterday (which was actually many months ago). In other words, it means time gone without any contact doesn’t affect the friendship.
The word was created together using Lifelong and Lie Low.
Being in the comforts of your home while a storm rages outside. The word for that feeling of comfort and security is Chrysalism.
It’s taken from Chrysalis which means ‘the immature form of a butterfly, how it safely lies dormant in its cocoon of protective fluid.
Pronunciation – Chris-a-li-sum
You are fascinated by folktales rampant with evils, oaths, tragedies and destinies. And the truth that these are missing from the real modern world makes you feel dejected. That’s Ringlorn.
The word is a combination of Ring plus Lorn which means ‘missing’. Why ring? Because it is often an important part of epics and folktales.
Aimonomia is the fear of learning the name of something that has attracted you- a bird, a star, a stranger. This fear is because you feel learning its name will ruin it or make it feel unreal.
It’s taken from the French word Aimer which means ‘to love’ and Nom meaning ‘name’.
You have made it, fighting all kinds of disasters and this knowledge makes you feel surprised and anxious at the same time because you don’t know how much longer you will be able to last the ordeal.
It’s a combination of Nigh which means ‘almost’ and Nihil which means ‘nothing’.
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
Reference- Hindustan Times