Q. “Are these words real or do you make them up?” –silhouetteme
Both. They’re real words, that are made up by me. I use the standard of realness established by lexicographer Erin McKean:
“People say to me, ‘How do I know if a word is real?’ You know, anybody who’s read a children’s book knows that love makes things real. If you love a word, use it. That makes it real. Being in the dictionary is an arbitrary distinction; it doesn’t make a word any more real than any other way. If you love a word, it becomes real.”
Q. “No but seriously. I tried looking up some of them in other dictionaries, and I only found a genus of salamanders. Are these real words?” –anonymous
If you find a word here that you can’t find in other dictionaries, please know that it’s not your fault—they might just be out of date. Please find them a good home, or donate them to your local public library.
If, however, you find a word that sounds as if someone just made it up, rest assured: it was. Just like every other word in the English language. If you trace back the etymology of every word we speak—and vow and teach and kill and die for—each one began its life as a barbaric yawp, untamed and untranslatable, born in the dirt, starving, hysterical, naked, dragging itself from tongue to tongue for centuries before it could get its foot in the door of the lexicon.
Q. “why read words you just made up?”
I admit, it’s perfectly alright to express yourself using only the words you inherited from your parents. It’s alright to put ketchup on everything, and only dance ironically, and never learn another language, and never fight and never make mistakes. It’s alright to go to a party and only talk to the people you know. It’s alright if you climb back down the waterslide, and wait ten years before you tell someone how you felt about them. It’s alright to die in your bed, leaving a vault of treasure that goes to the state.
But if you listen closely, many of the words we use to keep our lives afloat are now hulking derelicts, rust-eaten and bullet-holed, piled up with so much baggage and barnacles they’re sinking beneath our feet. We should cut them adrift, set them ablaze and let them rest; they’ve done their work.
Q. “How do you come up with the words?” –anonymous
Etymologies are discussed in detail on the facebook page. Each word actually means something etymologically, having been built from one of a dozen languages or renovated jargon. For example, aimonomia is French (aimer, to like + nom, name) and a palindrome.
Q. “How do I pronounce them?” –jessegivens
Yeah, I don’t know. As with words like caramel and pajamas, there are many possible pronunciations. All are acceptable. It is my experience that each of us tends to think and speak in our own strange dialect anyway.
Sure, our words mostly overlap, but their meanings are fundamentally unique, which makes them untranslatable. In fact, an unabridged Dictionary of Obscure Sorrowswould be several miles thick, and would include billions of sub-definitions and individual pronunciations, very like the Tower of Babel. Accordingly, the author recommends that you pronounce them according to your best judgment.
That said, anecdoche is properly pronounced /əˈnɛkdəki/.
Q. “Wait, some of these aren’t sad. Sonder, for example. Why are they called sorrows?” –c04dty34
Because I have my own definition of the word:
1. an unspoken intensity of feeling. 2. a spark of transcendence that punctuates the flatlining banality of everyday life. 3. a healthy kind of ache—like the ache in your muscles after hard exercise—that reminds you that your body exists.
So, I think most people instinctively think of a spectrum of good or bad emotions, like a spectrum from blue to red. But I think there’s another axis that’s more important: blankness to intensity. At one end is depression, in which everything feels dead, even the big things. At the other end is wonder, in which everything feels alive, even the little things.
As a bit of trivia, the word sad originally meant “full, sated.” Which means satisfaction and sadness are cousins, both etymologically and emotionally.