These lists of words were inspired by this quote; “I think the act of naming something implies, very simply, that you’re not alone. We give names to things so we can talk about them. Once there’s a word for an experience, it feels contained somehow—and the container has a handle, which makes it much easier to pick up and pass around. Kinda comforting.” – John Koenig. John Koenig is the author of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, a compendium of words he invented to help fill some of the gaps we have in language to describe emotions. Sophie has written some beautiful prose focusing on different obscure sorrows, that you should check out.

These lists were also inspired by this beautiful Robert Pirosh letter Sophie once read out loud to me, about fat buttery words, solemn, angular, creaky words, and wormy, squirmy mealy words.


Things that words need to be invented for (if they already exist, please let me know).

  • When you get a good text from someone you like and it feels intense and full of flavour so you read it and re-read it until all the flavour has gone out of it like a piece of used up bubble gum. While we’re at it I also wouldn’t mind a word for the fizzing I get inside my feet when I get these texts.
  • Eye food. For me, this exists a lot in film – the crisp black and white of Top Hat, Wizard of Oz technicolor, the yellow tinted lusciousness of Richard Gere’s scenes in the Bob Dylan biopic I’m not there. “Visually satisfying” sounds too clunky, and “beautiful” isn’t exactly it, because things can be extraordinarily beautiful without giving me that feeling like my eyes just ate a perfectly filling meal. I don’t just get it from films, a good stained glass window or some golden LA light can do it for me too.
  • A feminine equivalent of “machismo”.
  • Sympathetic/Empathetic annoyance. I get this a lot, I feel annoyed at people on behalf of other people. Recently I was at a seated gig (my favourite kind) and these two women were stood up, moving like airdancers and obscuring the view for the people sat directly behind them. I couldn’t stop looking over, I started having these dumb little fantasies about getting up to say something, I mean there was a whole standing area they could have gone and stood in, but for all I know the people behind them didn’t give a fuck.
  • Implied rhymes. I am sure there must be a word or expression for this already but I’ve been asking around, and nobody’s been able to give me an answer. There is a great example of an implied rhyme in ‘Big Poppa’ by the Notorious B.I.G – “So we can steam on the way to the telly, go fill my belly. A T-bone steak, cheese eggs, and Welch’s grape” Because Welch’s grape jelly is a thing and because jelly rhymes with belly, and telly, your mind just kind of fills in the gaps. Or at least, mine does.
  • A word for the absurd sense of pride people get from doing something that required no skill, like doing an incredibly long shit or being really naturally beautiful.
  • Something that captures the weird sense of loss you have when, after poking around with your tongue for ages, you finally dislodge a bit of food that was stuck in your teeth.
  • Dementia/Alzheimers death of personality. My gran is still technically alive but I often refer to her in the past tense since her Alzheimers and dementia have basically erased any trace of the person she used to be. There should be a word for this other kind of death, where the mourning is so dragged out and gradual you almost don’t realise you’re doing it.
  • The feeling of reward you get from telling someone that you are going to do something, that’s so satisfying it makes you not need to do that thing as much.
  • A word for the hit of euphoria you feel when you cancel social plans.
  • More words to describe different kinds of love and intimacy. The well-he’s-just-a-man love, craving a person like a chocolate bar love, love for a baby that isn’t yours and hasn’t done anything to earn your love yet but you know how awesome it will be because of its parents. shitty situation intimacy, tornado love, comfortable silence intimacy, and could-live-with-your-nose-in-their-sweaty-armpit love

Words I hate.

  • banter – how many times every day, all over the world, does someone excuse saying gross things and generally being an asshole with  “it was just a bit of banter”?
  • minge – this word is so much more offensive to me than cunt. It’s such a squelchy sounding word.
  • quirky – avoid people who use this word to describe themselves and your life will be better for it,
  • sapiosexual – please see above.
  • ghosting – I don’t really hate it, I just think it’s too cool a word (because ghosts, even Casper the friendly one, are cool) for doing something so lame and wimpy. I think it should be calling wimping.

Words I love.

  • gumption – I love what this word means, but most of all I like how it feels in my mouth.
  • portmanteau – I first discovered the existence of this word when working for the Shafta awards.
  • translucent
  • luminescence
  • litigious – It’s really not that clever a word but i feel so smart and smug every time I use it, and I’m lame enough to find every excuse I can to sneak it into a conversation.
  • mellifluous – I love that this word is a perfect example of the definition of this word; pleasingly smooth and musical to hear.
  • celestial – I would love to be described as celestial. I like it purely for its prettiness.
  • felicious, salacious, capricious are all delicious sounding words.
  • petrichor – this is nestled neatly next to litigious in my little pocket of words I use to sound smart, that most likely make me sound smug and lame. I do think there needs to be more words to describe smells.
  • yonic – the feminine equivalent of ‘phallic’, and the word that comes into my mind every time I see a Lady of Guadalupe picture. I wish it was used more often.
  • anemoia – This is from the dictionary of obscure sorrows, and describes something I have felt so many times; nostalgia for a time I’ve never known.
  • sassafras – I was hesitant to include a name but Sassafras is so fun, I can say it twenty times in a row and still enjoy it.

Foreign words I’m a fan of

  • fitta – this is the Swedish word for cunt. Where cunt sounds hard, angular, and mean (I love it), fitta sounds fun, round, and bouncy.
  • schaudenfraude- I love that the Germans have a word for pleasure taken from others misfortunes, but I wonder if it covers the full range of that feeling from enjoying watching someone trip over, all the way to being a Republican.
  • l’esprit d’escalier – You know when you think of a comeback ten minutes (or years) too later? That’s l’espirit d’escalier, I feel pretentious when I say this in French, and pronounce it badly, so I’ve taken to just saying “staircase wit” instead.
  • forelsket – a Norwegian word for the euphoria you feel when you first fall in love. I’d love it even more if its definition was ‘the heady mix of euphoria and crippling fear you feel when first falling in love’
  • iktusuarpok – An Inuit word that kind of describes what Drake was talking about at the end of the first verse of 0-100

Transatlantic lingual difficulties

  • oregano, risotto, herb, and twat – I would like Americans to pronounce these words properly, please.
  • naff and twee – and start using these words.
  • elevator and apartment – but I much prefer these American words to their English counterparts

Finally, expressions and mispronunciations or spellings that bother me

  • I’m not being funny, but – Don’t worry, I know you’re not about to be being funny, not even a tiny bit.
  • Bless you/him/her/them – Unless I’m sneezing, or you’re Jesus.
  • On route instead of En route.
  • Expresso instead of Espresso.
  • To be honest – you should be anyway.
  • At the end of the day.


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