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There's Probably a Word for It. Wednesday May 17, 2017

[To listen to an audio version of this blog please click here:]

Oh, I've known I'm a bibliophile for some years now. I blame a long series of illnesses I had as a child. Stuck in bed for weeks, months at a time, can very easily drive a sensitive (and, dare I say, intelligent) youngster into this kind of escape.

I must be honest and say that it has caused problems. There are times this addiction makes me late, leave tasks undone, drives me away from company to seek solace in solitude.

Well, not exactly solitude. I saw a blanket the other day with the words, "Bibliophiles never go to bed alone."

Yes, my pile of unread books on my bedside table regularly gets snow on its upper levels!

But, I didn't realise I was also a logophile until just the other day. That's a lover of words. Well, I knew I loved words, I just didn't know there was a word for it.

Turns out there are words for a lot of things.

We know words have power. In fact, the mere act of defining something into language enables it to be understood. Understanding is knowledge and knowledge is power.

I've always prided myself on my vocabulary (it comes from all those books) and so, yes, I know wonderful words like crepuscular (active at or relating to twilight) and serendipity (happy accident), and tarradiddle (a story based around an untruth or lie). But what about a word for that sharp scent of rain falling on dry earth? It's petrichor. That strange wistful feeling you get inside a good second hand book shop (especially if one has inadvertently stepped into L-Space*)? Vellichor. The sense of time speeding up as we get older? That's zenosyne.

You won't find these words in the Oxford Dictionary. At least, not yet – because they are not real words. They have been imagined by one John Koenig and published in his Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

The wonderful thing about the English language however, is that it is infinitely elastic and flexible. It grows by theft from other languages, by acronyms, by the conversion of proper names to common nouns and yes, by the adoption of entirely new words. Shakespeare was particularly good at this. It is from him we get the word addiction I used above, for instance.

So now you can use these words to describe your emotions:

• Clinomania – the excessive desire to stay in bed.
• Monochopsis – the subtle persistent feeling of being out of place.
• Nodus Tolens – the realisation that the plot of your life makes no sense.
• Altschmerz – the weariness of dealing with persistent problems and unwanted emotions.

Or – you can make up your own words. After all, if you've got a word for it, that's the beginning of power over it.

A Moodscope member.

*Terry Pratchett defined L-Space thus: Books = Knowledge = Power = Mass x Distance²/Time³
- such that, essentially, all bookstores are potentially infinite in extent; gateways into literary hyperspace: "[a] good bookshop is just a genteel blackhole that knows how to read."

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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LP Wed, May 17th 2017 @ 6:25am

Hi Mary,
That's so true! If what troubles us can be named, it becomes tangible. It becomes contained. It becomes less threatening. The possibility of it becoming manageable appears.
I love the power of words too. I'm fascinated by the fact that other languages and cultures have many words for what we may only have one word for. I wonder if it's the same the other way around? Perhaps we have a whole range of words for something that in other languages there is only one word for.
It fascinates me when I come across a new word, the possibility that it could open the door to a whole new concept to me.
Thanks for an inspirational blog Mary! Well wishes to you and all LPxx

Orangeblossom Wed, May 17th 2017 @ 7:06am

Hi Mary
Thanks for the blog which I thoroughly enjoyed reading & which thoroughly resonated for me. There are now two piles on my bedside table & a few on the window seat which I use for a holding area.

Orangeblossom Wed, May 17th 2017 @ 7:10am

Now that the less busy time approaches, I need to clear the window seat as I promised my other-half. Not such fun!

Lexi Wed, May 17th 2017 @ 9:52am

Monochopsis – the subtle persistent feeling of being out of place. So awesome. I love words too. I just wish I could use them as well as you do Mary! Thanks for a great post today.

The Gardener Wed, May 17th 2017 @ 2:19pm

Hello Mary, what fun, coining words. Having had 24 hours of pure hell, culminating in the nightmare of getting Mr G to the eye clinic with no co-operation on his part a bit of silliness would not come amiss. I was accused, long ago, of swallowing the dictionary - my hero was Alan Coren, who could use words I had to look up! The trouble is, being a linguist, words which sound 'ordinary' in English are much more effective in Latin languages. 'I'm cross' (true) sounds better when hissed 'je suis fachee'. Italian's best. I spent some time in a town nick-named 'the town that God forgot' in the middle of Sicily, and a Mafia barony. It was surrounded by mountains - very beautiful, they echoed. My kids played with the seamstress's kids on the next level down (the town looked as if someone had dumped a load of Lego bricks on it). One girl, a delicate blonde, with a very quiet voice, suddenly yelled 'i conigli sono scapaaaati'. It echoed round the mountains, and sounded very dramatic. It transpired that the rabbits had got out. I feel like making up a conglomerate - opposite to supercalifragilic (forgotten the rest). In the last 24 hours my husband, unfortunately, has been described as manipulative, demanding, hard, wind-up merchant, self-pitying, kill-joy, 'crucifying me' and cruel. For LP, and other languages, French is verbose. A normal-length novel, in english, will have many more pages when translated into French. Hell on earth is 'infernal', I prefer 'Via dolorosa' sounds more romantic.

LP Thu, May 18th 2017 @ 4:59am

Thanks TG. X

The Gardener Wed, May 17th 2017 @ 2:22pm

P.S - my family accuse me of long sentences and not knowing punctuation exists. Haven't done my homework, but I think Dickens, Fielding and Bernard Levin were neck and neck for long sentences. I heard that the last-named had a contract that would not allow 'The Times' to edit his pieces.

Mary Wednesday Wed, May 17th 2017 @ 3:03pm

Dear Gardener. It's you're style. Each of us writes in our own way. For me your writing rambles like a climbing rose, studded with beautiful and fragrant buds. Even when describing the behaviour of Mr G

The Gardener Wed, May 17th 2017 @ 4:33pm

Thanks Mary - I like to think of my ramblings as a 'stream of consciousness' sounds more literary. The actual rambler roses are spectacular. Just read Jeremy Paxman's 'The Political Animal' and re-reading 'Corridors of Power' makes one a bit cynical about the current political circus.

Eva Thu, May 18th 2017 @ 7:56am

I like the idea of your stream of consciousness putting forth rambling roses.

Eva Thu, May 18th 2017 @ 7:56am

I like "tricksy" , it is a real word but sounds to me like it's a combo tricky and something else...

My husband and mother in law have a habit of responding to a statement with a question... Me - Look, the rabbit has escaped... Them - Has the rabbit escaped? It drives me crackers, I sigh and say Listen to my words!

I also love words, I don't have the best vocabulary but I try to use it well, listening to a lot of audio books while I work helps furnish me with more.

Thanks for the blog Mary

Marmaladegirl Thu, May 18th 2017 @ 5:55pm

Dear Mary - What a lovely blog! Thank you. Full of fabulous treasures. I really enjoyed reading it (hey, I must be a "logophile" too!) I recently discovered that the Japanese have a word for gazing vacantly into the distance without thinking (I do that; I get stuck!) and the word is "boketto". I hadn't heard of John Koenig but I am so glad that he has given a name to the wonderful smell of rain on warm ground. We need that. Other languages have words for things that we do not name. My sister went to work in Spain and told me that they have a word for the tear-drop shaped hollow between your upper lip and your nose. They also have a word for the fleshy bit that can end up squeezing out from ones bra, between arm/shoulder and armpit. I can't remember now what these words are. Perhaps we should make up some English ones! By the way, Caroline has asked me to come this Saturday, even though I don't consider myself a "writer" at all (my entire oeuvre consists of three Moodscope blogs!) so I hope to be able to meet you in person! Lots of love, MG

Nicco Sat, May 20th 2017 @ 7:58pm

Thanks for a great blog, Mary. I love words & so does my daughter. When she was small (about 3yrs old) she got annoyed with me, stamped her foot and said, "You, you pontificate panphaffer you!" I was amazed! When she was very small (just learning to speak) I used to try and get to say longer words & one day I asked her to try saying 'multi-storey car park'. The concentration on her face was a picture! Frowning hard she said eventually forced out..."mocca-pocca" which I thought was a really good try considering her age! I watch 'Count Down' most afternoons on British tv & they have an 'origins of words' slot which I always find interesting, and the game itself (contestants have to make up words from 8 random letters on a board, making the longest possible in just 60 seconds, & the word must be in the English dictionary) can throw up some unusual ones which I always add to my 'philavery' (my own personal log book of unusual words I come across when reading or listening to radio/tv from day-to-day). Thanks again. Nicco. x

Nurse Tilda Mon, Jun 5th 2017 @ 12:50pm

Hi Mary, thanks for your wonderful blog. The part of not taking on others' (or the worlds') grief is particularly helpful to me when young nurses ask how to cope with the sadness of our patients and their situation... We must not add to the sadness or pain..Such a great post. You are a wonderful writer. You have a whole book inside of you and I hope you will write it. Best, Tilda

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