+
Pop Culture

Can't find the right word for a hard-to-describe emotion? Meet a man who makes them.

Have you ever thought, "Is that word just made up?" Well, you were right.

Obscure Sorrows, defining, newly minted words, emotions
Image pulled from YouTube video linked to website.

Unique words defining emotions beyond the scope of a typical dictionary.

This article originally appeared on 07.02.15


What if you needed a word for something that you can't quite define? Where would you turn?

Have you ever tried to explain something but gave up because the person you're talking to wouldn't be able to relate? Or worse yet, there's not an actual word for what you're trying to explain?


Well, there's a word for that feeling: exulansis.

Haven't heard that term before? How about this one:

Anecdoche — a conversation in which everyone is talking, but nobody is listening.

No? How about this:

Opia — the ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye.

Now, before you start doubting your own vocabulary skills, you won't find those words in any of the major dictionaries. Instead, they come from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, a collection of newly minted words for life's hard-to-define feelings.

So, these words aren't real? Well, it's not quite that simple.

Dictionary of (@ObscureSorrows) / Twitter

twitter.com

What makes something a "real" word?

It's a word that's found in the dictionary, you might say. That leads to an entirely separate question: Whose dictionary? Merriam-Webster? Oxford? Cambridge? Urban?

The truth is that language is ever-changing, and what one might say is a "fake" word today could very well be a "real" word tomorrow (or within a few years, at least).

In June 2015, the Oxford English Dictionary added a handful of new words to its rolls, including "Interweb," "jeggings," "hot mess," "crowdfunding," and "cisgender." Will all of these words stick with us for the long haul? Almost certainly not. Still, in the mind of OED's editors, those words are just as real as any others.

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, on the other hand, contains many useful terms that you won't find in a traditional dictionary ... yet.

You'll find words like "Vellichor" ("The strange wistfulness of used bookshops") and "Adronitis" ("Frustration with how long it takes to get to know someone") buried within the dictionary's six-year history.

While some terms come off as, well, obscure, others seem to fill meaningful voids left by the limitations of language for common emotions.

Its existence feels almost otherworldly, like spells from the mind of J.K. Rowling.

"I've been writing a dictionary of emotions for about five years, and still the most common question I get is, 'Are these words real?'" Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows creator John Koenig told Upworthy over email.

To answer that question, Koenig says (emphasis mine):

"One answer is an obvious 'no,' [they're not real] because you couldn't find them in a leather-bound dictionary — and because I create them myself by twisting together word roots from any one of a dozen different languages, from French, Japanese and Mayan to my personal favorite, Greek.

On the other hand, of course these words are real, because in reality there is no such thing. A word is not like a gold coin that you bite to tell whether it's counterfeit, so you might be able to trade it for a mule. It becomes real when it's spoken and understood. And by that standard, I've seen some of my words (particularly 'sonder') used earnestly in many different conversations online. Are they all wrong? Is 'sonder' any less meaningful because it hasn't yet been enshrined on the page of a leather-bound book? After all, almost every word in the Oxford English Dictionary has a birthdate, a notation of its first recorded use, back when it was just a yawp of nonsense that only made sense to one person, then two. All words were born this way."

Here's "sonder" by the way:

When it comes to how we think about words, popularity is often a stand-in for legitimacy.

You might not find the verb "retweeted" in the dictionary on your bookshelf, but it's an understood term. Koenig has thoughts on that, as well:

"So then, does realness require the blessing of popular use? How many millions of people does it take to change the word 'literally' to mean 'figuratively'? Is a word still alive if only one person knows its meaning? Or is that too far?"

"Personally, I think words should exist for their own sake, regardless of how they are used," Koenig says, pointing out that our language is particularly lacking when it comes to describing emotions.

"When I post a new definition or a new episode of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, I often have no idea if anyone else out there feels the emotion I'm trying to pin down. Because it's a one-man show, it's totally possible that it's just me. So then this question about realness [of a word] becomes just another way of asking, 'Am I the only person who feels this way?'"

Koenig isn't alone in his curiosity about the authenticity of words. English professor Anne Curzan gave a TED Talk on this exact topic.

During her talk, Curzan recounts someone asking her if "defriend" is a "real word." She wound up in the same sort of existential rabbit hole:

"What makes a word real? My dinner companion and I both know what the verb 'defriend' means, so when does a new word like 'defriend' become real? Who has the authority to make those kinds of official decisions about words, anyway?"

Here's Curzan giving her TED Talk "What makes a word 'real'?" in March 2014.


She touched on the process of words making their way into the dictionary. This might seem like a stale topic, but it's pretty fascinating.

To her, dictionary editors are similar to anthropologists — that's a way most of us probably hadn't thought about them before (if we thought about them at all).

"So how does a word get into a dictionary? It gets in because we use it and we keep using it, and dictionary editors are paying attention to us. If you're thinking, 'But that lets all of us decide what words mean,' I would say, 'Yes it does, and it always has.'

Dictionaries are a wonderful guide and resource, but there is no objective dictionary authority out there that is the final arbiter about what words mean. If a community of speakers is using a word and knows what it means, it's real. That word might be slangy, that word might be informal, that word might be a word that you think is illogical or unnecessary, but that word that we're using, that word is real."

So, what makes a "real" word? That's entirely up to you.

Celine Dion spoke directly to her fans on social media.

Celine Dion has shared the devastating news that she has been diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called stiff person syndrome.

In an emotional video to her fans, the 54-year-old French-Canadian singer apologized for taking so long to reach out and explained that her health struggles have been difficult to talk about.

"As you know, I have always been an open book, and I wasn't ready to say anything before. But I'm ready now."

Keep ReadingShow less

Moms don't have to be hard to shop for. Here are gifts she'll love.

True

Every year, moms put on their elf hats and become Santa's helpers. They shop for and wrap the family's presents, cook the holiday meal, organize the crafts and even set out cookies for the big guy. They're so busy making the holiday season magical for their family that oftentimes they don't get any time to rest.

Keep ReadingShow less

Tenacious D performs at the Rock in Pott festival.

The medley that closes out the second side of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album is one of the most impressive displays of musicianship in the band’s storied career. It also provided the perfect send-off before the band’s official breakup months later, ending with the lyrics, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

In 1969, “Abbey Road” was the last record the group made together, although “Let it Be,” recorded earlier that year, was released in 1970.

At first, the medley was just a clever way for the band to use a handful of half-finished tunes, but when it came together it was a rousing, grandiose affair.

Arranged by Paul McCartney and producer George Martin, the medley weaves together five songs written by McCartney, "You Never Give Me Your Money," "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window," "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight” and "The End," and three by John Lennon, “Sun King," "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam."

Fifteen seconds after the medley and the album’s conclusion, there is a surprise treat, McCartney’s 22-second “Her Majesty,” which wound up on the record as an accident.

Jack Black and Kyle Gass, collectively known as Tenacious D, recently reimagined two of the songs in the medley, "You Never Give Me Your Money" and "The End," for acoustic guitars for a performance on SiriusXM's Octane Channel. Like everything with Tenacious D, it showed off the duo’s impressive musical chops as well as their fantastic sense of humor.

The truncated version of the medley was also a wonderful tribute to the incredible work the Beatles did 53 years ago.

Warning: This video contains NSFW language.

A tiger at the Endangered Animal Rescue Sanctuary and a mugshot of Joe Exotic from Santa Rosa County Jail.

Netflix’s “Tiger King” will go down in history as the collective distraction that helped America get through the dark, depressing days of early COVID-19 lockdowns. The show followed the true story of the feud between private zoo owner Joe Exotic, the self-described “gay, gun-carrying, redneck with a mullet,” and Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue.

Exotic is currently serving out a 21-year prison sentence for animal rights abuses and hiring someone to kill Baskin.

The show was a raucous look inside the world of big cat owners and brought a lot of attention to the animal abuse that runs rampant in the industry. The light it shed on the industry was so bright it led Congress to take action. The Senate unanimously passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act on December 6. The House had already passed the bill in July.

The White House has signaled that President Biden will sign the bill into law.

Keep ReadingShow less