Archive Tag:real words

Drabble 81 – Cualacino


All language is arbitrary. You’ll often run into people who want to shut down conversations by saying that something isn’t a “real word” or that a lack of “proper” grammar somehow obfuscates a point. If it’s not clear, I find those arguments absurd; language is all an invention, and, if you can understand a person’s meaning even when it isn’t expressed exactly how you’d like it to be, there’s no breakdown in communication.

It seems like people really believe in real words, as if those, too, weren’t invented by somebody somewhere. But that raises an interesting question; at what point does an invented word become a real one?

“Cualacino,” my word for today, is apparently an Italian word for the ring left behind from a cold glass. Except it’s not; as far as I can tell, it’s a word somebody made up as part of one of those ‘untranslateable words’ lists that then got circulated as truth. At what point does its meaning become concrete?

Research is important.  I found this word on a list of words that don’t translate into English (despite the fact that ‘the ring left behind from a cold glass’ is, in fact, a translation) and I could have continued pushing the idea that this word really exists in Italian because it’s convenient or interesting or because I trusted a site with a cute illustration more than a lack of etymology or the Italian people I saw blogging about having never heard the word. It isn’t real, no matter how many cute drawings you attach to it.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 60 – Mamihlapinatapai

Veda Wildfire

It’s difficult to look at our own language as an outsider would, but it always seems like other languages have so many more specific words than English. We have kind of an obsession with them–you’ll find entire blogs consisting of these words, all of which express emotions we don’t have words for. They’re great fodder for drabbles, in fact.

Does that mean that other languages value these emotions more, to assign them their own word? Is English lacking, or are these emotions we deliberately don’t name? Can we accurately capture the specific feeling these words evoke in translation, or are we doomed to always be shy of the mark?

I have exactly zero answers, but I do have a lot of emotions I don’t quite have names for. That searing mixture of hope and determination I get right in the center of my chest. Sadness and regret and heaviness beating at the back of my knees. Needle-like fear prickling up and down my skin. Of course, none of those capture the entirety of the emotion–each one is tied to something specific, something unnameable, at least so far in life. Instead of giving it a name, I try to capture it in other ways.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 57 – Ambedo

Same rain doesn’t fall down twice by Chiara Cremaschi

Something interesting I found while looking into this word–another fake word, whatever that means–is that ‘ambedo,’ originally a creation of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, took on a life of its own. The original definition is as follows:

Noun. “a kind of melancholic trance in which you become completely absorbed in vivid sensory details—raindrops skittering down a window, tall trees leaning in the wind, clouds of cream swirling in your coffee—which leads to a dawning awareness of the haunting fragility of life, a mood whose only known cure is the vuvuzela.”

Only, as I found when googling the word, people didn’t much like the vuvuzela bit at the end. Sure, vuvuzelas became a symbol of annoyance during the World Cup (I’m not sure why I know this, I’m not a sports person in the slightest), but it seems that people found the reference so annoying that they needed to delete it from the original text and add an extra ‘d.’

Which, like, this is a rant I’ve had about a thousand times before–maybe not here, specifically, but certainly elsewhere, at length, and with great passion. There’s some kind of weird connection between melancholy and intelligence and adulthood. True adults are sad. Truly intelligent people are unhappy. There is no maturity without grimdark.

Eff that. If a vuvuzela breaks you out of the haunting fragility of life, good. We can appreciate how precious everything is, how a single moment can contain an incredible amount of beauty, and we can laugh at a silly joke if we want. It’s amazing, the span of emotions humans are capable of holding. I get the desire to preserve the sanctity of a deep moment, but also, it’s fine to laugh and be silly and remember that not everything has to be deadly serious.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 53 – Cosmogyral

Stars by Nigel Howe

I took a day off!

That might not seem like that big of a deal, but trust me–it is. I am terrible at taking time for myself, but last week I decided I didn’t have enough time to post a drabble, so I didn’t.

Most of the time, I hold myself to self-imposed deadlines because it’s very easy to let myself off the hook because of self-doubt. “Oh, nobody’s reading it anyway,” I say, despite knowing full well it isn’t true. At least one person is reading my drabbles, because she hounded me last week to remind me to put it up. (Thanks, Stephani.)

I give myself deadlines because somebody has to hold me accountable. But I’m the worst editor I’ve ever had, not in the sense of me being a poor editor (though I do usually catch at least one typo per post, hopefully before anybody else sees it), but in the sense of me having no sympathy. You’re sick? Too bad. You lack direction? Too bad. You literally do not have a spare minute between work and sleep? Too bad.

Writing often requires me to step outside of my own head. Sometimes that doesn’t mean just letting the words flow and not worrying about my insistent inner critic, but also talking to myself like I would talk to a friend in my position.

It’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to take a day off. Let yourself breathe for a moment, then step back in. The words will be there when you get back. And they were.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 18 – Opia

Image Source: Aldo Danyel via Flickr.

I’m going to be completely honest: I’ve been at PAX Prime all this weekend and my brain has all the processing capability of oatmeal. Instead of writing personal musings about riding the bus, making accidental eye contact, and looking away, I’m going to let you fill in those blanks yourself.

You can also imagine that I talk a little about “real words” again, and whether words have any basis in reality or whether they’re just noises our mouths make and we attach a meaning to them because it’s convenient. Rather than diving into the meandering, philosophical thoughts on reality and language and narrative that are almost certainly the product of exhaustion, too many game demos, and mediocre convention food, I’ll let you imagine what that conversation is like and you can pretend we had it together.

Anyway, a drabble, written before PAX Prime and therefore very probably coherent. Meant to be posted last night, but WordPress didn’t feel like uploading images.

Drabble 2 – “Sonder”

Image Source: Warren Antiola via Flickr

This word is a bit different. It’s not a “real word” (a topic worthy of its own blog post)—it was created by The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, a blog of invented words by John Koenig. Like any word, It’s begun to take on a life of its own; it’s been added to UrbanDictionary and passed around other internet sources as a “real word,” lending it some legitimacy. As The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows aims to create words for feelings we feel but don’t have words for, and, because a word is nothing but a string of arbitrary letters with meaning attached (you can read more about what a “real word” is in relation to “sonder” here), it has arguably succeeded.

But anyway, a drabble.