The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows was created by a man called John Koenig, who decided to take it upon himself to create words to describe emotions or situations that many of us feel or go through, but none of us have the words to describe accurately, because they simply didn’t exist. Here are 15 words for situations you’ve experienced or emotions you’ve felt, but couldn’t explain:
1. Onism (noun)
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.
2. Sonder (noun)
Each passerby that you come across is living a life just as vivid and complex as yours is, and sonder is coming to the realization that there are epic life stories being told around you that you’re totally unaware of. What’s more is that these lives are in turn linked to thousands of others, which you may or may not realize ever existed, other than perhaps being a part of them as an extra sipping coffee in the background.
3. Hanker Sore (adjective)
When you’re hankering after a person because you fancy them so much, to the point where how much you like them actually gets on your nerves.
4. Chrysalism (noun)
The tranquil feeling you get when you’re indoors during a thunderstorm, listening to the rain pattering against the roof of your home, as if listening to an unintelligible conversation. Although the words (ergo the rain) themselves may be unintelligible, you understand the crackling built-up tension that the storm releases perfectly.
5. Occhiolism (noun)
You experience occhiolism when you become aware of just how small your perspective is when attempting to explain the world in terms of all of its complexities. You realize that your frame of reference, namely your life and everything you experience within it, is far too small to be able to do so. This is because billions of lives have been lived, and billions of years have passed throughout which evolution has taken its course. For all you know, you could be a sample in an experiment that’s going on in the next room.
6. Liberosis (noun)
Are you an individual that cares too much about everything, to the point where it’s detrimental to your emotional wellbeing or even your health? It could be that your desire liberosis, which is having the ability to loosen your grip on life, and just let it unfold naturally, only intervening fleetingly, as opposed to feeling like you need to glance behind you every few steps for fear of somebody snatching everything you hold dear away from you.
7. Kairosclerosis (noun)
The concept of kairosclerosis is actually bittersweet. It’s about realizing just how happy you are at a particular moment and consciously trying to savor the feeling. In order to do so, your intellect needs to identify the fact that you’re feeling happy, so inevitably the happiness gets picked apart and put into context by your brain. This occurs to the point where the feeling of happiness dissolves into nothing more than a faint aftertaste of how you used to feel.
8. Nighthawk (noun)
A nighthawk is an unsettling thought that only seems to be on your mind late at night. It could be an overdue task, a nagging guilt or a directionless future that is upon you. It circles high overhead during the day, pecks at your mind as you sleep, and hovers at the window in the morning, before making its presence known at night.
9. Dead Reckoning (noun)
In life, it’s inevitable that people die, but we don’t give much thought to the deaths of certain individuals – until we realize that it’s affecting us more than we ever imagined it would. This is usually coupled with the assumption that the passed individual would always be part of the landscape, like a lighthouse you drive past every day for years of your life, before it suddenly goes dark. In other words, the death of the individual is like having one less landmark to navigate through life by. You’re still able to find your bearings, but the death has left you feeling adrift.
10. Adronitis (noun)
It can take a while to really get to know someone, to the point where you feel that it’s not happening quickly enough and it begins to frustrate you. The first few weeks of chats tend to involve standing in the doorway of their psyche, with each conversation lading you into a different anteroom, ebbing ever closer to the center of their psychological “house” (the core of who they are as a person, and what they’re about). This is when you wish you could start from the center of the house, getting the deepest secrets out of the way first, before learning more casual things about them.
11. Silience (noun)
There’s no doubting that much excellence goes unnoticed in the world every single day. This can be anything from the hidden talents of your friends or coworkers to an incredibly talented busker or an aspiring artist with a magical portfolio that remains undiscovered. This would all change if only such people would be appraised by popular taste. In other words, silience is the unnoticed excellence that’s all around us.
12. Keyframe (noun)
There are certain moments in our lives that seem completely innocuous, but they turn to mark a point at which we divert into a new era that starts with tiny, imperceptible differences between one day and the next. Eventually, years pass and until you can compress entire years of your memory into a mere handful of images. This “compression” stops you from replaying the past over and over in your head, but the positive side is that you can move forward with your life without endlessly going over days and years gone by.
13. Anecdoche (noun)
During certain group conversations, it seems like everyone’s talking, but no-one is listening. They turn into a series of disconnected words, often with the participants using anecdotes to outdo each other and become the greatest “conversationalist” in the group. This goes on to the point where the participants have nothing left to say to each other.
14. Monachopsis (noun)
Monachopsis is a term used to describe the subtle yet persistent feeling of being out of place and ill-adapted to your surroundings. At the same time, you’re unable to recognize where you should be, or how appealing it would be if you were actually there.
15. Semaphorism (noun)
A semaphorism is an action you take during a conversation indicating that you have something personal to say about the subject at hand, but wish to go no further toward saying it. This could be a nod, a half-told anecdote or an “I know the feeling” – things you place into conversations to raise little warning flags to the other person.
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