Linguistic Anarchy: Creating Your Own Words

The English language is a strange collection of words. Far too vast for one person to master, its vocabulary and grammar are at times confusing and contradictory and somehow at times, the most precise method we have to express our inner thoughts and feelings.

Have you ever made up your own words, though? It’s a fun exercise in self-expression, to convey exactly what you’re feeling, no matter how complex. The mere act of creating and defining a word is thrilling, an act of linguistic anarchy. Using it is another task, since language prospers in communicative modes, between and among others. (Though, nothing’s stopping you from publishing your own dictionary, I suppose.)

One website has done that, in digital form. The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows publishes original words based on the author’s unique definitions, most of which involve emotional states of pain or sorrow — perhaps the most complicated states to explain. (Quite a name, I know. It’s more interesting than merely sad, don’t worry. The tagline — ”For Lack of a Better World” — is inspiring in its own way.) Each word is accompanied by a video that uses poetry and moving image to convey its definition. Here’s a trailer for the site:

I worked on a similar project once (or began to) for a group art show at Sugar City that I never got around to finishing (story of my life…worthy of its own word…besides “regret”…but I digress). My work had begun to outline the various contradictory feelings I wanted to pin down and articulate. I will return to that list soon enough. The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows has piqued my interest in it once again. Stay tuned…

- Ben

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