As someone who writes for a living, I spend a fair amount of my time thinking about words. But this week, I’ve been thinking about them even more than usual. For two reasons, really: firstly, because I read that 2016 would have marked much-loved children’s author Roald Dahl’s 100th year, and secondly, because it was reported that another of my all-time favourite childhood authors, Louise Rennison, had passed away.
They might not occupy quite the same territory as the likes of Tolstoy or Austen, but both writers played a pretty big role in forming my love of words. And part of this was no doubt due to the fact that lots of the ones they used were completely and utterly made up. In fact, Roald Dahl invented so many that he coined a word for his very own language: ‘Gobblefunk’. In Dahl land, you can ‘whizz-pop’ (fart), be ‘muggled’ (confused) or find something ‘gloriumptious’ (wonderful).
In the world of Louise Rennison, meanwhile, and specifically that of Georgia Nicholson (heroine of Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging and other seminal classics), you might talk of your 'nunga nungas' (boobs), tell your friends to display ‘glaciosity' (a cool and aloof appearance in front of the object of their affections), study ‘blodge’ (biology) or, best of all, wear your ‘boy entrancers’ (fake eyelashes) and display ‘red bottomosity’ (appear DTF, basically).
Much of the vocabulary Dahl and Rennison invented was for things we English speakers just don’t have the words for, but there are of course many real-life languages that go where English doesn't. The Danish for example have ‘hygge’: that feeling that's hard to express in English, of being all cosy and warm inside, and which could apply to anything from reading a book in bed to eating a candlelit dinner with your friends. The French on the other hand have 'L’esprit de l'escaliere' or 'staircase wit', meaning the feeling you get when you think of a perfect comeback long after the opportunity to do so has passed. Perhaps the most famous example of a word we don't have one for, though, is the Germans' ‘schadenfreude’ – taking pleasure in someone else’s misfortune.
I'm surprised there isn't a British equivalent for the opposite: feeling embarrassment on someone else’s behalf. In fact, there are plenty of things I’m surprised there aren’t any words for, so I decided to come up with a few of my own...
Being unable to decide which TV series to start next: ‘conflixted’.
When men continue to try and chat up women who clearly aren’t interested: ‘twerpsin’.
‘Kanyusional’: when you’re rich but still claim to have no money.
When something you ordered online for a party looks awful in real life: 'fiasosco'
The feeling of being completely at home in another family’s house: 'at weasley’.
‘Bogtrotterism’: The failsafe ability to eat dessert when you felt like you were going to explode from the main course.
The weight gained by longterm couples: ‘smug-rolls’.
The first exquisite taste of tea or coffee when you’ve been caffeine-deprived: ‘sipsation.’
‘Tubilation’: the specific triumph you feel when you JUST make it on to public transport before the doors slam shut.
The satisfaction gained from tidying: ‘domecstasy’.
Feeling compelled to take a photo of your food before eating: ‘millenancholia’.
When you can’t stand someone but can’t quite put your finger on why: ‘gouldingo’.
When you get what you want but still feel down: ‘smithsery’.
When a picture completely fails to do justice to an amazing view: ‘nonstagram'.
‘Spotification': hearing a song that transports you back to a different time in your life.
The madness of people that give up sugar: ‘quinoacy’.
The comforting sensation of hearing rain patter against the window when you’re tucked up in bed: ‘snuggaby’.
‘Rigor floortis’: feeling too self conscious to dance because someone you fancy is there.
‘Anechd’oh’: when you realise halfway through recounting a story that you’ve already told it to that person.
Is there a word for knowing the right time to stop..?