Tuesday, February 23, 2016

40 Words for Emotions You've Felt, But Couldn't Explain

40 Words For Emotions You’ve Felt, But Couldn’t Explain

Exulansis: when there’s not an actual word for what you’re trying to explain. We feel more than we have the language to articulate and express, which is in itself profoundly frustrating. People work through emotions by being able to identify them and use them as signals. A lot of the time, we’re left in the dark. Enter the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, the brainchild of writer John Koenig, who is here to give you words for the feelings you may not have even known you were having. Here are 40 of them. 

Blogger's note. No there aren't, 40 of them I mean, because the piece was too long and I didn't like 19 of them. Here are just the BEST what-do-you-call-its, "whatevers" - there's no word for them anyway! That's the whole point. In boiling these down, I had several criteria.The word either had to sound/look nice, like gnossienne, or represent something very familiar, like kenopsis. This would seem to solve the problem of "those feelings we can't put into words", but the problem is, if I started talking about kenopsis, people would think I had some sort of gross skin disease, like keratosis.

In any case, I've included my observations after each definition. I will not be using these terms any time soon, and you will soon discover why.

Onism n. the awareness of how little of the world you’ll experience. Imagine standing in front of the departures screen at an airport, flickering over with strange place names like other people’s passwords, each representing one more thing you’ll never get to see before you die—and all because, as the arrow on the map helpfully points out, you are here.

The problem with this is that it sounds like "Onanism", which people through the ages have taken to mean masturbation. But it isn't. In Genesis, Onan was supposed to impregnate his brother's concubine or something like that, but he decided at the last minute that he didn't want to, so he pulled it out before he came and "spilled his seed on the ground" (which is why Dorothy Parker named her pet canary "Onan").

That's it, folks - it was coitus interruptus, the good old, tried-and-true, disastrous "pull-out method", the one that explains why Catholics have such huge families. Aside from these concerns, onism is something I experience every day of my life. 

Mal de Coucou n. a phenomenon in which you have an active social life but very few close friends—people who you can trust, who you can be yourself with, who can help flush out the weird psychological toxins that tend to accumulate over time—which is a form of acute social malnutrition in which even if you devour an entire buffet of chitchat, you’ll still feel pangs of hunger.

Synonym: social media.

Chrysalism n. the amniotic tranquility of being indoors during a thunderstorm, listening to waves of rain pattering against the roof like an argument upstairs, whose muffled words are unintelligible but whose crackling release of built-up tension you understand perfectly.

This brings to mind the dreamy Lovin' Spoonfuls song You and Me and Rain on the Roof. Caught up in a summer shower, drying while it soaks the flowers. Maybe we'll be caught for hours. Waiting out the sun.

I particularly love to be indoors during a rip-roaring hailstorm that leaves piles of diamonds on the ground which smoke under the sun.

 n. weariness with the same old issues that you’ve always had—the same boring flaws and anxieties you’ve been gnawing on for years, which leaves them soggy and tasteless and inert, with nothing interesting left to think about, nothing left to do but spit them out and wander off to the backyard, ready to dig up some fresher pain you might have buried long ago.

Synonym: life.

Ambedo n. a kind of melancholic trance in which you become completely absorbed in vivid sensory details—raindrops skittering down a window, tall trees leaning in the wind, clouds of cream swirling in your coffee—briefly soaking in the experience of being alive, an act that is done purely for its own sake.

I'd say social media again, because of the emphasis on self-absorption. But yes, we do sometimes fall down peculiar rabbit-holes in our own minds, and don't come out again for a long time. Our dream self and our waking self are not so separate after all. They aren't just joined: they're the same thing. Chew on that one for a while.

Nodus Tollens n. the realization that the plot of your life doesn’t make sense to you anymore—that although you thought you were following the arc of the story, you keep finding yourself immersed in passages you don’t understand, that don’t even seem to belong in the same genre—which requires you to go back and reread the chapters you had originally skimmed to get to the good parts, only to learn that all along you were supposed to choose your own adventure.

Some movies are this way. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Being John Malkovich. Groundhog Day. To quote Bob Dylan in Motorpsycho Nitemare: "Oh, no, no, I've been through this movie before."

n. the frustration of photographing something amazing when thousands of identical photos already exist—the same sunset, the same waterfall, the same curve of a hip, the same closeup of an eye—which can turn a unique subject into something hollow and pulpy and cheap, like a mass-produced piece of furniture you happen to have assembled yourself.


Vellichor n. the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time—filled with thousands of old books you’ll never have time to read, each of which is itself locked in its own era, bound and dated and papered over like an old room the author abandoned years ago, a hidden annex littered with thoughts left just as they were on the day they were captured.

Does this explain why, when I read an old book, or even an old-ish book like the one I'm re-reading now (Positively Fourth Street, which is about Joan Baez and Bob Dylan in the '60s and which came out only about six years ago), I keep sticking my nose into the book because I keep on picking up this punky, book-papery smell? Where will this smell go when I finally get with the 21st century and buy a Kindle?

Rückkehrunruhe n. the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness—to the extent you have to keep reminding yourself that it happened at all, even though it felt so vivid just days ago—which makes you wish you could smoothly cross-dissolve back into everyday life, or just hold the shutter open indefinitely and let one scene become superimposed on the next, so all your days would run together and you’d never have to call cut.

If I could begin to pronounce this word without sounding like I'm either trying to dislodge a giant piece of toffee from my back molars, or having a stroke, I might be able to figure it out. I think it's just about vacation regret and getting that pesky joy-extinguishing Visa bill, and realizing that in the course of twenty-six days, you have put on twenty-five pounds.

Rigor Samsa n. a kind of psychological exoskeleton that can protect you from pain and contain your anxieties, but always ends up cracking under pressure or hollowed out by time—and will keep growing back again and again, until you develop a more sophisticated emotional structure, held up by a strong and flexible spine, built less like a fortress than a cluster of treehouses.

I know a lot of people who have one of these. Personally, I think they're better off. I've always gone around like an egg without a shell. I don't even know how I've lasted this long.

P. S. is this something like a samosa? Because I've never really known what that is.

Silience n. the kind of unnoticed excellence that carries on around you every day, unremarkably—the hidden talents of friends and coworkers, the fleeting solos of subway buskers, the slapdash eloquence of anonymous users, the unseen portfolios of aspiring artists—which would be renowned as masterpieces if only they’d been appraised by the cartel of popular taste, who assume that brilliance is a rare and precious quality, accidentally overlooking buried jewels that may not be flawless but are still somehow perfect.

OK, so THIS one I understand. I always have these thoughts about Third World children: they die before they can even GET to school, many of them, but how many potential Einsteins die in the process? Is it so far-fetched to think that potential world-savers may be trapped in conditions so wretched they may die before they have a chance to do any good? This word keeps wanting to flip into "silence", which is annoying. "Silience" is kind of like "resilience" or "silica", or even "silliness". Or saliva. Or salience. Or - 

Gnossienne n. a moment of awareness that someone you’ve known for years still has a private and mysterious inner life, and somewhere in the hallways of their personality is a door locked from the inside, a stairway leading to a wing of the house that you’ve never fully explored—an unfinished attic that will remain maddeningly unknowable to you, because ultimately neither of you has a map, or a master key, or any way of knowing exactly where you stand.

On the other hand, if the other person is a complete idiot, they probably have no such door.

Anecdoche n. a conversation in which everyone is talking but nobody is listening, simply overlaying disconnected words like a game of Scrabble, with each player borrowing bits of other anecdotes as a way to increase their own score, until we all run out of things to say

Ah! Simon and Garfunkle. People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening. I'd say it's social media all over again, or texting, since conversation is beginning to wither away and die, going the way of the VHS player (or, worse, the one we had - beta).

Catoptric Tristesse n. the sadness that you’ll never really know what other people think of you, whether good, bad or if at all—that although we reflect on each other with the sharpness of a mirror, the true picture of how we’re coming off somehow reaches us softened and distorted, as if each mirror was preoccupied with twisting around, desperately trying to look itself in the eye.

Oh, fuck this!

Anemoia n. nostalgia for a time you’ve never known. Imagine stepping through the frame into a sepia-tinted haze, where you could sit on the side of the road and watch the locals passing by. Who lived and died before any of us arrived here, who sleep in some of the same houses we do, who look up at the same moon, who breathe the same air, feel the same blood in their veins—and live in a completely different world.

This is what allowed me to write The Glass Character, a. k. a. The Book that Never Was. Or it was, but nobody bought it, which is too bad. It's a good book, you should get yourself a copy. In order to write it I had to anemoia (anemone? Anemia?) quite a lot. 

Daguerreologue n. an imaginary interview with an old photo of yourself, an enigmatic figure who still lives in the grainy and color-warped house you grew up in, who may well spend a lot of their day wondering where you are and what you’re doing now, like an old grandma whose kids live far away and don’t call much anymore.

This word is much better for the beauty/bittersweet quality of its sound/look on the page than for its meaning, which sucks rocks.

Avenoir n. the desire that memory could flow backward. We take it for granted that life moves forward. But you move as a rower moves, facing backwards: you can see where you’ve been, but not where you’re going. And your boat is steered by a younger version of you. It’s hard not to wonder what life would be like facing the other way…

These are all so painful, I'm not sure I'm even going to get through this exercise! Today I had a bout of this, or something like it. When not absorbed in a useless replaying of scenes in my life where I felt I had fucked everything up, I kept recalling all the most joyful and emotionally-gratifying times I had ever experienced, collapsing with grief when I realized that it will never happen again.

Kenopsia n. the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet—a school hallway in the evening, an unlit office on a weekend, vacant fairgrounds—an emotional afterimage that makes it seem not just empty but hyper-empty, with a total population in the negative, who are so conspicuously absent they glow like neon signs.

Movielike, again, but I can't remember which movie.

Ecstatic Shock n. the surge of energy upon catching a glance from someone you like—a thrill that starts in your stomach, arcs up through your lungs and flashes into a spontaneous smile—which scrambles your ungrounded circuits and tempts you to chase that feeling with a kite and a key.

Forget the kite and key part, this person is trying to show off their colourful writing skills. But I DO know about ecstatic shock, and how it's always somebody you're not even supposed to be seeing. Or at least, you're not supposed to be having these feelings about him. Oh, go read the novel.

Xeno n. the smallest measurable unit of human connection, typically exchanged between passing strangers—a flirtatious glance, a sympathetic nod, a shared laugh about some odd coincidence—moments that are fleeting and random but still contain powerful emotional nutrients that can alleviate the symptoms of feeling alone.

This is what happens from too much social media. Even the merest wave from your barber fills the abyss within your soul for just long enough to drag yourself through another meaningless, obscenely lonely day.  It's xeno, and it's "us".

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"Why all the caps?" Emily Dickinson meets The Editor

Oh no it doesn't.

This Is How Sand Looks Magnified Up To 300 Times

Blogger's note. I found this about as plausible as the video from a couple of years ago with the crickets slowed down to sound like an angel choir. I soon found an actual recording of crickets slowed down, and it sounded like. . . crickets slowed down. When you look at the size of the grains relative to each other, you realize it can't be sand at all, but a combination of shells and unusually-shaped, colorful stones.

But hey! I'm playing internet party pooper here. Everyone is exclaiming over these things! To see the world in a grain of sand, and an angel choir in a goddamn bunch of insects The ones on the bottom look like fucking CELERY, for God's sake! And a lobster claw. 

Here is an actual photo of sand magnified 250 times (pretty close). Compare and contrast.

  Visit Margaret's Amazon Author Page!