Living joyfully: Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows


n. the moment you realize that you’re currently happy – consciously trying to savor the feeling – which prompts your intellect to identify it, pick it apart and put it in context, where it will slowly dissolve until it’s little more than an aftertaste.

I loved this made-up word “kairosclerosis” even though I haven’t worked out how to pronounce yet! 😊 The word describes me perfectly. I overthink things, over intellectualise them until they lose their meaning. I’m trying hard to break that habit with my Living Joyfully approach: just letting myself experience and savour moments of joy and happiness, let them come and go.

This word was made up by John Koenig. I recently discovered his Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. Lordy, how cool is the name – dictionary of obscure sorrows? That in itself is a reason to be happy.

John makes up words that express our unarticulated feelings and he’s been writing an original dictionary of made-up words for years. His TEDx talk about the meaning of words, how we define them and how they “as revenge, define us”, is worth watching.

I’m fortunate to be a native English language speaker. When I come across creative people like this, or ideas like this, I am reminded how much I love how the English language works – it’s rules and inconsistencies, it’s rhythms and cadences. I love that it’s a hodge-podge of words “borrowed” from other languages and how new words are constantly added to it as the influence of that word spreads:

new words are added to the dictionary only when they have already been used by many people – often initially by specialists or subcultures. Then, gradually, a word’s use spreads to the rest of us [New dictionary words]

I love the idea that we can make up words for ourselves and assign meaning to them by using them in our close circles – families, friends and workspaces. A long time ago, I made up the word “wabbing” and my son and I use it often:

(noun) Work Avoidance Behaviour, or “Writing Avoidance Behaviour”
(verb) behaviour that avoids work, or writing!

Shakespeare, in his lifetime, made up hundreds of our everyday words. Google it and you’ll see what I mean.


A collection of words from my fridge magnet vocab bank © Deborah Ann Stott 2018

I love that you can take a set of random words and put them together to create a phrase, as I enjoy doing with the magnetic words on my fridge.

I love that so many people in the world speak “English”, yet there are so many variations. Take Cockney Slang, regional differences in the UK, South African English (check out my A to Z posts for some South African English words), American, Australian and New Zealand English as a few examples. Perfect examples of how we assign meaning to words in different contexts. When John Koenig was asked if the words he makes up mean anything, one of his responses was: “Well, a word is real if you want it to be real.” True that!

Have you ever made up a word? Do share if you have, I’d love the hear them. 

Debbie blog sign off 2018

This post is part of my Living Joyfully series.

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