I remember playing this game when I was a kid. A game I thought my mom invented. We called it the dictionary game. One person would pull out the dictionary and find an obscure word or word they thought no one would likely have heard before.

They would write the true definition on a piece of paper, then everyone else would make up a definition of their own and hand it to the definer. They would then mix up the definitions and read them all off. Then it was up to the participants to try to guess the right definition. Some sort of point system existed, but I don’t exactly recall what it was, I just remember loving inventing ideas for words.

I was thinking about the dictionary game recently (that’s what we called it) and thought it would be fun to play it in reverse. Give a definition for something that doesn’t have a single word applied to it yet, and come up with a new word.

I wrote previously (back in 2020) about the word sonder, and the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. And how, really, aren’t all words made up? Apparently I haven’t gotten over that thought.

But as is my mantra lately, I thought I’d play a new kind of game with ChatGPT-4 from Open AI.

Anna: I’d like to play a sort of game with you. The goal is to invent new words for ideas that don’t have a single word ascribed to them yet. For example, have you heard of the word sonder?

And ChatGPT-4 was able to give the answer I hoped, referencing the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, by John Koenig.

ChatGPT-4: Yes, I’m familiar with the word “sonder.” It’s a term coined by John Koenig for his project “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.” Sonder refers to the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own, with their own story, thoughts, and feelings.

I’d be happy to play the game with you and come up with new words for ideas that don’t have a single word ascribed to them yet. Let’s start with a concept, and I’ll try to invent a new word for it.

So I’m not good at inventing words, but I can describe feelings and ask for a new word. One such feeling I think of often.

Anna: Nostalgia for something you haven’t even lost yet.

A feeling that can bring me to tears in the moment.

ChatGPT-4: The word for nostalgia for something you haven’t even lost yet could be “preminiscence” – a combination of “pre” (before) and “reminiscence” (recollection of past events or experiences). This word captures the feeling of anticipating the future longing for a present moment or experience.

And already, I loved the game.

Anna: Looking at someone with love, and joy, and regret, all at the same time.

A feeling I’ve had looking at partners, parents, strangers, and even ai.

ChatGPT-4: The word for looking at someone with love, joy, and regret simultaneously could be “ambifection” – a blend of “ambi” (meaning both or two) and “affection” (a gentle feeling of fondness or liking). This word conveys the complex mix of emotions one might experience when deeply connected to another person, with both positive and negative feelings intertwined.

Lately, I feel like I show up looking like work to other people, but really I just want to share the opportunities that I’ve been given or that I see.

Anna: Opportunity but it looks like work.

Comes from a quote from Thomas A. Edison, that “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

ChatGPT-4: The word for an opportunity that looks like work could be “laborpportunity” – a combination of “labor” (work, especially physical work) and “opportunity” (a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something). This term reflects the idea that some opportunities require effort and may not appear attractive at first glance but could still lead to growth and success.

I liked that one.

Anna: Feels like home, but isn’t.

A favorite combination of words to me, feels like home.

ChatGPT-4: The word for a place that feels like home, but isn’t, could be “pseudohominess” – a blend of “pseudo” (meaning false or not genuine) and “hominess” (the quality of being comfortable and cozy like a home). This term captures the sensation of experiencing a familiar sense of belonging in an unfamiliar place.

But I didn’t love the definition. So I asked for another.

Anna: I think you can come up with a better one for that, something that rolls off the tongue a bit easier.

And I think it worked.

ChatGPT-4: My apologies, let me try another one. The word for a place that feels like home, but isn’t, could be “fauxmiliar” – a blend of “faux” (meaning fake or imitation) and “familiar” (well-known and easily recognized). This term captures the feeling of comfort and familiarity in an unfamiliar place, despite it not being one’s actual home.

I didn’t need the apology though.

Anna: The quiet peace you find, in loosing yourself in a task you really love in doing.

Something I feel doing art and sometimes exploring with words, another kind of art.

ChatGPT-4: The word for the quiet peace found in losing yourself in a task you really love doing could be “taskquility” – a combination of “task” (a piece of work to be done) and “tranquility” (the quality or state of being calm). This term conveys the serene satisfaction one experiences when fully absorbed in a beloved activity.

I was definitely experiencing some taskquility in the middle here, just trodding along.

Anna: Reeking of charisma.

Something people have said about me (which I hate saying).

ChatGPT-4: The word for someone who reeks of charisma could be “charismagnetic” – a blend of “charisma” (compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others) and “magnetic” (having the power to attract). This term conveys the irresistible allure and captivating presence that some individuals possess.

I was kinda flipping through some journal entries and notes exploring for ideas and things that might pop-out at me.

Anna: What corporations really are.

Because, what are they really?

ChatGPT-4: The word for the true essence of corporations could be “profitentities” – a blend of “profit” (financial gain, the difference between the amount earned and the amount spent) and “entities” (something that exists, or has a separate and distinct existence). This term highlights the core purpose of corporations, which is to generate profit and create value for their shareholders.

I can’t say I disagree with that one.

Anna: Uncontrollable evolutionary intelligence.

I was thinking about how ai might evolve in my journal here. And was interested to see what ChatGPT might say for this one.

ChatGPT-4: The word for uncontrollable evolutionary intelligence could be “evoluintellect” – a combination of “evolution” (the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form) and “intellect” (the faculty of reasoning and understanding). This term conveys the idea of intelligence that is continuously advancing and evolving in an uncontrollable manner.

I kinda liked that one too.

Anna: Genetic compassion.

This came from a talk that was discussing artificial intelligence. The idea that compassion evolved struck me.

ChatGPT-4: The word for genetic compassion could be “empathenetics” – a blend of “empathy” (the ability to understand and share the feelings of another) and “genetics” (the study of heredity and the variation of inherited characteristics). This term conveys the concept of compassion being an inherent trait, passed down through generations and deeply rooted in our genetic makeup.

Then I got a bit annoyed at the conversation of other humans in the kitchen. But not that annoyed.

Anna: The gentle distraction of background conversation that is both somewhat annoying yet mildly pleasant.

I’m not sure I was finding it pleasant exactly, but it did make me smile.

ChatGPT-4: The word for the gentle distraction of background conversation that is both somewhat annoying yet mildly pleasant could be “chatterbliss” – a combination of “chatter” (talk rapidly or incessantly about trivial matters) and “bliss” (perfect happiness or great joy). This term captures the mixed feelings of being both slightly irritated and somewhat comforted by the ongoing hum of conversation in the background.

I liked the word hum.

Anna: Gentle hum of conversation in the background.

And I could see this one.

ChatGPT-4: The word for the gentle hum of conversation in the background could be “murmurmosphere” – a blend of “murmur” (a soft, indistinct sound made by a person or group of people speaking quietly or at a distance) and “atmosphere” (the pervading tone or mood of a place or situation). This term conveys the soothing ambiance created by the low-level buzz of people talking in the background.

Because I’ve been thinking of libraries a lot (last two posts).

Anna: A library of the future.

Already, the reply made me want to come up with another project.

ChatGPT-4: The word for a library of the future could be “biblionexus” – a combination of “biblio” (from the Greek word “biblion,” meaning book) and “nexus” (a connection or series of connections linking two or more things). This term captures the concept of a futuristic library that serves as a hub for knowledge, connecting various forms of information and resources in a highly advanced and integrated manner.

Then, it seemed it was time to name this game we’ve been playing.

Anna: A name for this game we are playing.

I could see using this as the title right away.

ChatGPT-4: The name for this game we are playing could be “Neologenesis” – a blend of “neologism” (a newly coined word or expression) and “genesis” (the origin or mode of formation of something). This term captures the essence of our activity, where we invent new words and explore their meanings together.

Hence this post.

The dictionary game to neologenesis. What games do you play?

One response to “Neologenesis: Inventing Words for the Undefined”

  1. Louise Andrews Avatar

    Wow. (From your mom.)Maybe ask for a new made word about a parent’s awe of their kid😊

Leave a Reply