I used to work with a woman from Panama who we’ll call Linda (her real name). One day, she boasted that Spanish is superior to English because, as she claimed, “there’s a word in Spanish for everything.”
To prove her point, Linda asked, “What is the English word for that plug you pull in the bathtub to make the water run out of the shower instead of the faucet?” I had to admit that I had no word for it, and until that moment, had never discussed that gadget with another human being. Linda then told me the Spanish word for it, which I forgot ten minutes later.
Thinking back on that conversation, I’m sure there IS an English word for that thingy, and is surely common knowledge among plumbers and bathtub enthusiasts across the English-speaking world.
But Linda was right – there are many gaping holes in the English language; too many experiences and phenomenon for which we just don’t have a proper word. And here at Projectophile, our motto is:
If you need it, (and can’t buy it), then make it yourself.
As a public service, the Projectophile D.I.Y. Linguistic Committee proposes adding the following words and phrases to the English language:*
BOOKCOMMIT: The act of reading a terrible book until the end because the reader has already read one or two chapters. In terms of financial investment, economists call these “sunk costs,” but the phenomenon can be applied to books, movies and sometimes boyfriends.
DREAMBARASSMENT: The mix of social anxiety and irrational embarrassment caused when one encounters an individual — such as a co-worker, acquaintance, or casual friend — the morning after having dreamed about him. Many times the Dreamer, having forgotten the dream, suddenly remembers it upon seeing the Dreamee’s face, and feels that the Dreamee somehow “knows” about the dream. Occasionally this mix of emotions is accompanied by an urge to tell the Dreamee all about it; this is not recommended for those outside of one’s “Dreamcircle” (see below).
DREAMCIRCLE: The close circle of intimates, usually confined to the dreamer’s immediate family, romantic partners, and very close friends, with whom a one feels comfortable telling about a dream in which the intimate person appeared. Not to be confused with a “dreamcatcher,” most commonly found hanging from rear-view mirrors, or tattooed on the feet and shoulders of free-spirited women in their twenties.
FACEBOOKQUAINTANCE: An individual that one knows — sometimes quite well — from the comments that the individual deposits on your mutual Facebook friends’ posts. It is quite common upon meeting a Facebookquaintance in person for the first time, for one to declare, for example, “I know you from our 23 mutual friends on Facebook, and admire your mastery of emoticons.” It is not clear, based on today’s social norms, whether it is appropriate to tell a new Facebookquaintance that Facebook has repeatedly suggested you two should be friends.
GUSTATORY DISSONANCE: The feeling of shock and disgust an eater feels upon tasting a food that is different from one’s expectations. For example, a coworker brought a plate of what appeared to be glazed donuts to a work party. Upon biting into one, I discovered that they were actually CHINESE HAM BUNS. I have yet to recover from that experience.
NERDBRAG: The act of calling oneself a “Nerd” because one really just wants others to know that one is “smart.” To avoid looking boastful, the Projectophile Linguistic Committee suggests instead utilizing the word “enthusiast.”
NOMENESIA: Forgetting the name of a new acquaintance because one is so anxious about remembering it.
PEDESTRIDANCE: The awkward shuffle to one side, and then the other, and perhaps another, that oncoming pedestrians perform to avoid collision. The “pedestridancers” often appear as mirror images of each other. This phenomenon is sounds more poetic than it really is.
PICKFULLNESS: The shameful feeling that a Home Cook experiences after having taken so many little tastes and samples of the dish that she is preparing, that by the time the meal is ready to eat, she is so full that she can only sit and watch others eat it. After the meal has ended, the Home Cook will often continue to pick at the leftovers before retiring them to the refrigerator.
PROCRASTOLUTION: The successful act of procrastinating until the task is no longer relevant.**
SIMULATED NOCTURNAL DEAFNESS: Behavior commonly exhibited by parents of young children, wherein one parent pretends to be sleeping so soundly that he cannot hear the cries of his offspring, in an effort to coerce the other parent to rouse from slumber and attend to the child’s needs. It is important for the simulated sleeper to “wake” momentarily to acknowledge the situation, after the other parent has completed the task. For example, “Oh, Honey, was that the baby crying? I must have been sound asleep.” Note the use of the male pronoun, which masks the fact that in my household, I am usually the Big Faker.
VACATILLUSION: The irresistible — and completely irrational — urge to immediately pick up and move to the town where one is spending his or her vacation. This feeling is fueled by the false belief that one could enjoy living permanently in that particular small town/ seaside resort/ tourist trap, when in reality, one would be miserable after a week when one realizes that one could never find a job in one’s field, or locate good Thai food or even a decent cup of coffee within 50 miles.
VOCABULAWARNESS: The feeling of ignorance and embarrassment that one typically feels upon learning either 1) a new word, or 2) the correct meaning of a known word, and suddenly seeing and hearing it EVERYWHERE. Each time one sees the new (or newly understood) word, it is a reminder of how much one really doesn’t know. And one wonders how she could have lived for 37 years on this earth without ever knowing the meaning of APHORISM, because now it seems to be everywhere around her as a reminder of her ignorance.
So, fellow Projectophilians, what do you suggest? Do you have any DIY words to add to the English language?
* To make room, we also suggest eliminating “webinar,” which experts agree is the worst word ever.
** Idea courtesy of M. Avery.
Love it – so clever!
Once again, laughing till I cried. Thank you for giving me such a great start to my day! I think we all have made up words to describe things or situations, but yours are clever (and clean!)
Thanks, Kate. I have a few naughty ones up my sleeve, but I want to keep it, ahem, family friendly around here. Happy new year!
Same to you! Looking forward to the next make.
A friend coined “pyjaminate” as the verb for when you don your pyjamas much earlier than bedtime with the intention of staying in them for the rest of the day.
I love it! And I love how you spell “pyjamas.” Does your friend have a word for when you’ve worn your pajamas so late into the day that it doesn’t make sense to bother changing into daytime clothes? Over winter break (the last 2.5 weeks), my 4-year-old has been wearing her pajamas until lunchtime, or later. At that point, why even bother?
Too right, why bother at that point? Perhaps that is the true definition of “pyjaminate”, and what I do is re-pyjamination?
Loved this post, hilarious and also, really true! I’ve totally had dreambarassment.
I really enjoyed this! A book that I re-read every few years is ‘The Meaning of Liff’ by Douglas Adams, it’s a dictionary of words just like yours, that needed inventing, and it never fails to make me laugh!
Thanks, Helen. I will definitely check it out. My husband is a big Douglas Adams fan, so we may have a copy of it hidden somewhere in our house.
I always wonder if speakers of other languages feel like they are constantly struggling to describe something for which there’s no word. Do Germans have this problem?
Ok, I’m totally late to the game here, but I’ll add two that I *think* I invented (but maybe just unconsciously heard somewhere). I can’t describe them nearly as awesomely as you. ,but here goes:
1. Freezerlanche — the slippery frozen plastic bags of minestrone, half-bags of peas and sausages that slide out of the freezer every time you open the door. Trying to catch them is futile.
2. Bookalanche — that precarious and uneven stack of books, folded magazines (especially slippery) and catalogues, usually next to my side of the bed. Trying to fish one out usually results in a … “bookalanche.”
I have experienced minor injuries from both of those “-alanches.” My mom used to freeze 1-lb balls of ground beef and shove them into the already-packed freezer. Don’t know how many minor concussions I suffered as a child trying to sneak popsicles. With the advent of side-by-side doors and even (gasp!) freezer drawers on the bottom, I think the rate of injury from Freezerlanche has dropped in recent years.