Made Up Words

The word sonder has crossed my path a few times. It’s not an officially recognized word by Webster’s standards… yet. But you might say, ain’t it just a matter of time? (Depending on your age and/or knowledge of linguistic history you might get that “ain’t” wasn’t recognized as a word by Webster even after being in common use for some time.)

n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

My running joke with sonder as a word and a whole collection of “made up words” from the dictionary of obscure sorrows, is that all words are made up, at least they were at some point. Right?

Words are just symbols that we agree on to define certain meaning. Even then, we may not exactly agree. For example, if I asked you what the word love means, your definition might be completely different than mine, at least in how it’s demonstrated or stated. Our memories, feelings, and understanding of love come from all sorts of different stories, events, histories. How can we ever really know when we say a certain word that the other person understands, because their feelings, stories, and history is entirely different. But maybe that feeling, that hope that we are understood, that joy of feeling connection via language is why it came to be.

But can it be better?

If I were to ask you what reason is, could you define it? Could you demonstrate it? How about creativity? Or imagination? You probably could spin your own definition of those words up, if you can’t state the exact definition from Webster (or some other source).

But perhaps your idea of reason is different than my idea of reason. Perhaps you idea of creativity, I just view as hard work applied again and again until it seems creative. I’m sure there are many varying ways someone might define those words. Is there an ultimate truth behind some words?

If I wanted to find truth in a simpler word, could I? For example, the word behind, I think we could perhaps agree that means that the thing you are talking about is obscured or hidden on the far side of something else. But context matters too doesn’t it? I could say I am behind, I feel behind, hell, I have a behind, but your feeling of behind is likely different than mine.

Has communication improved in the last few decades? Are we better at expressing what we mean. Or do we just hope we are understood?

Just some random musings, from a collection of made up words…

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