August 9, 2008

Words I Want

The other evening I was having dinner with my friend Matt and he was telling me about this new book Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages. Ammon Shea read the Oxford English Dictionary from cover to cover, and wrote a book about the experience. Included in the book are words that caught his attention, such as petrichor, which is "the loamy smell that rises from the dry ground after a rain."

Matt and I were both happy to know that a word for this smell existed, and it immediately got me to thinking about other words I want. I sat and jotted down a few specific situations and emotions for which I wanted words. Maybe they already exist; maybe they don't.

I did buy the book today, though.

1. A word for the complex combination of emotions that arise when you love someone dearly and want very much to protect and shield them from others' judgment, but you are embarrassed by or ashamed of them.

2. A word for the feeling in the air before an approaching thunderstorm. There are black clouds rolling in from the distance; the wind is kicking up; and there are occasional flashes of lightning and ominous rumbles of thunder. The air feels charged and electric and full of possibilities--like something dramatic and exciting is about to happen. (e.g., October 22, 1992)

3. A word that describes the feeling that you have when you bury your face in a bodily curve (e.g., neck, hip, thigh) of someone you love romantically. The word must simultaneously capture your feelings of love, lust, tenderness, contentment, urgency, and the fear that they will leave or be taken away.

4. A word that describes the experience of waking from a dream and feeling disoriented because you can't quite remember what it was you were dreaming or how much of it was just a dream and how much was real. You're only left with vague and fleeting impressions and images that grow increasingly vague as you awaken and the general emotions it/they evoked in you.

5. A word that succinctly captures the smell of someone you love and/or miss and they are gone forever or, at best, far away. The word must capture the feelings of nostalgia, loneliness, longing, and sadness that you experience when you smell this scent.

1 comment:

Bree said...

I love this list! #3 especially resonates with me - it's very close to the concepts I worked on in my thesis, that push-pull of intimacy and loss, or threat of loss.

In other OED literary news, have you ever read The Professor and the Mad Man by Simon Winchester? It's one of my all-time favorite nonfiction books. It's about the creation of the OED, and one of its most prolific contributors, a Civil War doctor who went mad and cited references for word definitions from a sanitorium. Really fascinating and well written.