Five Words That Need to be Invented

Books Lists

The motivation for this post is two-fold. First, I really enjoyed Lindsey Deloach Jones’ post on Sunday about eight words invented by authors. Second, I was intrigued watching TV that night when a Walking Dead character pointed out that there’s no word in our language for a parent who has lost a child (morbid!). We have widow and widower if you’ve lost a spouse, and orphan if you have no parents, so why does it stop there?

And I began to wonder: What other words need to be invented? Here are five that came to mind, along with a suggestion for what each nonexistent word should be.

1. The Feeling of Elation and Terror In the Moment After Your Bike/Car/Skateboard Begins to Crash, but Before You Hit the Ground

(Note: Feel free to substitute any other moving apparatus for the example above.)

Anyone who’s been in an accident knows exactly what I’m talking about; when you’re past the point of control, and there’s no way to prevent a wreck, but you haven’t felt the consequences yet. In that split-second between chaos and collision, the feeling you get is totally unique. It’s part fear, of course, but there’s also a brief moment of elation. It’s the kind you can’t get on a roller coaster, because your safety is implied. When you crash in real life? Everything’s in play, and there’s no security. You’d trade it in a second to prevent whatever damage is about to come, but there’s no denying that you’re on the ultimate thrill ride. The adrenaline it produces is the reason you don’t feel any pain for the split second after you finally hit the ground (hey, that moment needs a word too!).

Word Suggestion: Prestimulition. Combining premonition, stimulation and demolition. As in, “I wanted the prestimulition to last forever, but then I broke my leg.”

2. The Desperate Babbling After You’ve Said Something Really Awkward and Everyone’s Staring at You

You’re at a dinner table, the conversation is fun and free-flowing and a little risque, and then you tell everyone you were a virgin until you were 27. Like a record-scratch scene in a movie, everything goes silent. Your face burns. “Well,” you say, as all eyes turn to you, “it’s not like, umm…well, I mean, I had chances, it just wasn’t exactly…I mean, I could have…I totally could have…if I had wanted, and, uh…great steak…this is really…this is some great, great steak, Cynthia.”

Word suggestion: Glorb. “Did you see that lady glorb after she accidentally called the male flight attendant a stewardess?”

3. The Strange, Deeply Buried Urge to Self-Sabotage

Let’s say you’re in a grocery store, driving your cart around, and you see all the boxes of cereal stacked up. Don’t you want to plow into them, consequences be damned? Or consider that moment when you’re driving on a highway and idly wonder what it would be like to just swerve into oncoming traffic. This has nothing to do with depression or a desire to die, at least for me. It stems, I think, from the urge to violate social norms. Another example would be when you’re around stuffy people, and that little voice in your head starts thinking, “What would it be like if I just said the most vile word I could think of right here.” Or if I’m at an important interview, or in a very public setting, I can’t help but consider the fact that I could ruin my life and my career simply by taking my pants off and running around shouting the word, “fire!” (I’m not alone in this, right??)

Word suggestion: Sterbendrängen. This is just a (probably crappy) Google translation for “death urge” in German. All good words for buried psychological desires should sound German.

4. The Brief Despair you Feel When Someone You Actually Like Has Good News

Speaking of Germans, they nailed it with Schadenfreude, which is the feeling of pleasure you get when someone else is going through hard times. But as far as I know, they don’t have a word for the opposite, which is the little pit of despair when someone that you like has good news about themselves. It goes beyond jealousy, because it doesn’t even have to be something you covet. And because you like the person, it’s not hatred or resentment. There’s just some deep-seated, instinctual thing in our characters that makes it initially unpleasant to hear about somebody else’s good news. If I had to trace the root, it might be the residual fear that good things won’t happen to you. When you hear good news about others, even close friends, it just reinforces this anxiety. This is usually followed by joy for that person, and then guilt that you felt any negative emotion at all. But it happened, gang. You’re all bad people.

Word suggestion: Gloomburst. “Of course I was happy that my brother won the lottery, but I had to endure a severe gloomburst while I faked a smile.”

5. The Thoughts that Flicker Through Your Head Just Before You Fall Sleep That Aren’t Quite Waking and Aren’t Quite Dreams

This is one of my favorite moments of the day, when you’re just about to fall asleep and the words in your head get twisted and contorted, while the images fade into absurdity. You’re not really awake anymore, but you’re conscious enough that you aren’t quite asleep. If you do it right, you can recognize the pleasant thought that you’re about to fall asleep just before it happens. If you’re wrong, you wake up with a start and wonder why you were just thinking about a talking gas pump that shot rainbows into the sky as gazelles ran across the streets of North Carolina.

Word suggestion: Presomniums. Turning to Latin here for somniums, and our old friend “pre” for before. “In waking life, Anthony was a loser. In dreams, he was a hero. But in his presomniums, he rode around in a recycling bin singing the national anthem from an unknown country.”

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