n. an emotion you haven’t felt in years that you might have forgotten about completely if your emotional playlist hadn’t been left on shuffle—a feeling whose opening riff tugs on all your other neurons like a dog on a leash waiting for you to open the door.
n. the habit of forgetting how important someone is to you until you see them again in person, making you wish your day would begin with a “previously on” recap of your life’s various plot arcs, and end with “to be continued…” after those will-they-won’t-they cliffhanger episodes that air just before the show goes back into months of repeats.
n. the insomnia-borne jolt of awareness that you will die, that these passing years aren’t just scenes from a dress rehearsal, rounds of an ongoing game or chapters in a story you’ll be telling later, but are footprints being lapped by the steadily gathering tide of an unfathomable abyss, which still wouldn’t wash out the aftertaste of all those baskets of Buffalo wings you devoured just before bedtime.
n. the instinctive trance of a campfire in the dark, spending hours roasting and watching as it settles and sinks into the ground like a heap of shipwrecks whose sailors raise their flickering sails trying to signal that the prevailing winds of your life are about to shift, that the edge of the Earth is real and looming just a few years ahead, and that your marshmallow is on fire.
n. a twinge of sadness that there’s no frontier left, that as the last explorer trudged with his armies toward a blank spot on the map, he didn’t suddenly remember his daughter’s upcoming piano recital and turn for home, leaving a new continent unexplored so we could set its mists and mountains aside as a strategic reserve of mystery, if only to answer more of our children’s questions with “Nobody knows! Out there, anything is possible.”
n. the intense heat on the skin of a sleeping person, a radioactive byproduct of an idle mind humming with secret delusions which then vaporize when plunged into the cooling bath of reality, thus preventing a meltdown that could endanger those close by, who tolerate the risk because it gives them energy.
n. the realization while talking to yourself that someone else is within earshot, which leads you to crossfade into mumbled singing, an auditory sleight of hand that distracts the audience from the exposed platform under your persona while you prepare to saw your confidence in half.
n. the phenomenon of observing your parents interact with people they grew up with, which reboots their personalities into youth mode, reverting to a time before the last save point, when they were still dreamers and rascals cooling their heels in the wilderness, waiting terrified and eager to meet you for the first time.
adj. proud of a scar on your body, an autograph signed to you by a world grateful for your continued willingness to play with her, even when you don’t feel like it.
adj. hearing a person with a thick accent pronounce a certain phrase—the Texan “cooler,” the South African “bastard,” the Kiwi “thirty years ago”—and wanting them to repeat it over and over until the vowels pool in the air and congeal into a linguistic taffy you could break apart and give as presents.
n. when your dream about someone you know skews how you feel about them all the next day, an emotion you are unable—and unwilling—to shake.
n. the intense desire to bite deeply into the forearm of someone you love.
n. the half-forlorn, half-escapist ache of a train whistle calling in the distance at night.
Q. “Are these words real or do you make them up?” –silhouetteme
Yes and yes. They were invented by the author, but meet 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. “How do you come up with the words?” –anonymous
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. Etymologies are discussed in detail on the facebook page.
Q. “How do I pronounce them?” –jessegivens
As with caramel and pajamas, there are many possible pronunciations. All are acceptable. It is the author’s experience that each of us tends to think and speak in our own strange dialect. 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. “Are you writing a book version?” –aquaholical