There's Probably a Word for It.

16 May 2017

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."

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