Categories
Language

New words for obscure sorrows

I love learning new words. (And writing them down.) All the better when they are invented words. John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is a collection of words Koenig has created—inspired by real etymology—for specific emotions that don’t have precise English words to describe them. Tell me you haven’t felt every one of these:

Sonder: (n) The realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own

Opia: (n) The ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye, which can feel simultaneously invasive and vulnerable

Monachopsis: (n) The subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place.

Énouement: (n) The bittersweetness of having arrived in the future, seeing how things turn out, but not being able to tell your past self.

Vellichor: (n) The strange wistfulness of used bookshops.

Rubatosis: (n) The unsettling awareness of your own heartbeat.

Kenopsia: (n) The eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that is usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet.

Mauerbauertraurigkeit: (n) The inexplicable urge to push people away, even close friends who you really like.

Jouska: (n) A hypothetical conversation that you compulsively play out in your head.

Chrysalism: (n) the amniotic tranquility of being indoors during a thunderstorm.

Vemödalen: (n) The frustration of photographic something amazing when thousands of identical photos already exist.

Anecdoche: (n) A conversation in which everyone is talking, but nobody is listening

Ellipsism: (n) A sadness that you’ll never be able to know how history will turn out.

Kuebiko: (n) A state of exhaustion inspired by acts of senseless violence.

Lachesism: (n) The desire to be struck by disaster – to survive a plane crash, or to lose everything in a fire.

Exulansis: (n) The tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it.

Adronitis: (n) Frustration with how long it takes to get to know someone.

Rückkehrunruhe: (n) The feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness.

Nodus Tollens: (n) The realization that the plot of your life doesn’t make sense to you anymore.

Onism: (n) The frustration of being stuck in just one body, that inhabits only one place at a time.

Liberosis: (n) The desire to care less about things.

Altschmerz: (n) Weariness with the same old issues that you’ve always had – the same boring flaws and anxieties that you’ve been gnawing on for years.

Occhiolism: (n) The awareness of the smallness of your perspective.

(via Tyler Cowen)

Categories
Books Design Language

Päntsdrunk, baby box, Moomin, and Finland’s other official emojis

God bless Finland, my ancestral homeland. First, there’s the new book Pantsdrunk (Kalsarikanni): The Finnish Path to Relaxation (Drinking at Home Alone in your Underwear) by Miska Rantanen. From the publisher:

Danes have hygge. Swedes have lagom. But the Finnish secret to contentment is faster and easier—”kalsarikänni” or pantsdrunk—drinking at home, alone, in your underwear.

When it comes to happiness rankings, Finland always scores near the top. Many Finnish phenomena set the bar high: the best education system, gender equality, a flourishing welfare state, sisu or bull-headed pluck. Behind all of these accomplishments lies a Finnish ability to stay calm, healthy and content in a riptide of endless tasks and temptations. The ability comes from the practice of “kalsarikanni” translated as pantsdrunk.

Peel off your clothes down to your underwear. Place savory or sweet snacks within reach alongside your bed or sofa. Make sure your television remote control is nearby along with any and all devices to access social media. Open your preferred alcohol. Your journey toward inner strength, higher quality of life, and peace of mind has begun.

Second, Finland’s official Ministry of Foreign Affairs produced a set of 56 emojis to “explain some hard-to-describe Finnish emotions, Finnish words and customs.” I can and cannot believe these are real:

“pantsdrunk” personified:

kalsarikannit_m.png

kalsarikannit_f.png

The famous Baby Box:

baby_in_a_box.png

The Aurora Borealis:

auroraborealis.png

“Finnish Love”, which is so emo:

finnishlove.png

The concept of sisu:

sisu.png

The sauna:

sauna_m.png

And of course, the OG cell phone, the Nokia (which they call “Unbreakable”):

unbreakable.png

Download the app or the image files for more pantsdrunk-ing pleasure.

Categories
Language

Abolish the apostrophe!

I came out against irregular superlatives. I lobbied for the interrobang. Now throw this on my personal 2018 platform: Abolish the apostrophe.

James Harbeck laid out the case against them a few years ago in an article that, to make his point, lacks apostrophes:

Why are so many people so confused by apostrophes? Because they cant hear them in speech, and they dont serve a valuable grammatical function. They simply mark contraction or possession, and you can tell the meaning without them. If you couldnt, the indignant red-pen-wielding self-appointed correction brigades wouldnt know for sure which ones were wrong because the meaning wouldnt be clear. But they always do know, because the meaning is clear even when the apostrophe is used wrongly or omitted.

I liken apostrophes to library fines. Fines are an outmoded practice based on faulty assumptions, and they annoy patrons and staff equally. When libraries do get rid of them, patron satisfaction increases and items miraculously still come back.

Same with apostrophes. They no longer serve any practical function, are too easily misused, and, most importantly, are a pain to type on a typewriter. English would be better off without them. So lets get rid of them.

Categories
Language

Lane Greene’s language litany

Lane Greene, from his forthcoming book Talk on the Wild Side:

Language is not so much logical as it is useful. It is not composed; it is improvised. It is not well behaved; it is resourceful. It is not delicate; it is hardy. It is not always efficient, but its redundancy makes it robust. It is not threatened; it is self-renewing. It is not perfect. But it is amazing.

Amen.

Categories
Design Language

OED can you see?

A used books and records store in my town just moved even closer to my place. Today I stopped by and saw a two-volume Oxford English Dictionary Compact Edition. It comes in a case and with its own magnifying glass, because they weren’t kidding when they called it compact:

I exercised enough self-control to pass on it, but one day…

Categories
Design Language

Make the interrobang banal‽

99% Invisible (a personal favorite podcast) just did a typically great short history of the interrobang and its fight for survival:

Today, the interrobang is just barely hanging in there. It has its own character in Unicode, the common directory of symbols which all computer fonts must reference. But Keith Houston points out that it still hasn’t cleared the biggest typographical obstacle of all: “I think that in order to really consider it to be a real mark of punctuation, people have to use it without thinking about it.” In other words: a truly remarkable mark of punctuation must be unremarkable.

I strongly believe in the interrobang. For my part, I created an iOS text replacement shortcut that replaces ?! with ‽ in my texts. This doesn’t pass the ease of use test, and it’s not available in every typeface. But it’s what I can do to help make the interrobang ubiquitous enough to save.

See also: Shady Characters

Categories
Language

What a Chad

I get the Word of the Day from Merriam-Webster, the OED, and Urban Dictionary in my RSS feed every day, which usually make for a lively bunch.

Well, today, May 8, 2018, Urban Dictionary’s Word of the Day is What A Chad:

A phrase describing a stereotypical young urban white male, typically single and in his 20s. This phrase is usually used to denote stereotypical “Chad” behavior which is ususally derogatory.

The misspelling of “usually” means you know it’s a legit Urban Dictionary entry.

Categories
Language

Dictionary on display

This morning I looked at my bookshelves and noticed my three volumes of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. I haven’t cracked them open since I got them from Half Price Books a few months ago. I was so excited to get them so I’d have an accessible and thorough way to tap into the dictionary’s mighty powers, but, lacking space for exhibition, they’ve just languished on the shelves.

Then I saw that my standing desk—a hefty wooden podium acquired from a library rummage sale—was unusually lacking my laptop. Taking this as a sign, I cracked open Volume 1 and let it breathe:

It immediately looked like it was meant to be there. I like using that space for computer work, but I think I’ll give this a try for a while.

Categories
Language

Inherit the Words

I was helping my parents clear out their bookshelves in advance of their living room being painted and in the process stumbled upon some interesting artifacts. Among the books, family photo albums, and LPs that had stuck around unplayed for decades, I spotted a small University of Wisconsin notebook. I opened it to find in my mom’s handwriting a list of interesting words and their definitions she started in college:

My mom’s late father also kept a list of new and interesting words he encountered in Time magazine and other reading. I couldn’t help but laugh because I do the same thing, only my list is digital. There are even several words in common between her list and mine. There’s clearly a juiced-up lexicographical chromosome in the gene pool.

I took the notebook home with me because I want to transcribe my word list into it and start adding new ones to keep the tradition alive. Now I wish I’d started my list of words on paper, because I think the order in which I discovered them would be more interesting than an alphabetical list.

Categories
Etc. Language Writing

No More ‘More’: Against Irregular Superlatives

Who’s ready for a grammatical crusade of pedantic proportions?! Get in on this: It’s time to standardize English comparative and superlative adjectives.

Those are used when you are comparing one or more things. For example, a banana can be big, bigger, or biggest. The -er and -est progression is common and used for most adjectives. The ones that don’t use -er and -est typically use more ___ and most ___, as in more beautiful and most beautiful. But why?

Beautifuller and beautifullest actually have a nice flow and even become accidental portmanteaus, combining beautiful and fullest. Even longer adjectives can work: extraordinarier is quite fun to say, and comfortablest sneaks in the archaic spelling of blessed.

In a previous post, I wanted to write about something that was the next level up from vibrant. The “correct” version would be more vibrant, but is vibranter any worse? (Or badder?) It may look and sound odd, but only because the brain has been trained to expect more vibrant. There’s no reason why vibranter can’t be acceptable, especially in a language as flexible as English.

I’m fully aware that English is a strange and stubbornly idiosyncratic language. I love it for that. (You should see the list of interesting words I keep just for fun.) But it’s also an amenable language, subject to evolution over a long time or by brute force.

So let’s make it happen: no more more, avoid most to the utmost, and let those -ers and -ests fly!