Recently, my boss and I had a random little conversation about vocabulary and words that people never use. It began with her using the word daunting and me commenting on how much I liked that word (not simply for its connection to Dauntless and the Divergent series). Then I told her some other cool words that I’d found recently:
Lethologica – that “it’s on the tip of my tongue” feeling we all get when you can think of the meaning of a word or what that word represents, but not the word itself.
Metanoia – the journey of changing your mind, heart, self, or way of life.
Numinous – having a quality that is religious or divine.
Psitherism – the sound of the wind blowing through trees.
Yuputka – the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin.
Now, all of you may look at the above words and agree with me that these are some really cool words (personally, I like psitherism best) and that it’s sad that we don’t use them.
That being said, we could all go on after reading (or writing, in my case) this post and never use those words again. Some of us may intend to use them, and we’ll come across this perfect situation in which to use them, and then we’ll experience lethologica in full force and say, “Oh! There’s a word for that, but what was it?”
Why? Because I could never simply write “And she listened to the psitherism all around her and she felt at peace” because no one would understand me. And we all know that, despite the Internet being constantly at our finger tips, no one is going to look up a definition for that word. So they’d just respond with [shameless Doctor Who reference] “Looks like a word. People don’t really question words, do they? They just think, ‘Ew, it’s a word.'” [/shameless Doctor Who reference]
Thus, it’s an endless cycle. We never use these cool and interesting words because no one understands them, and no one understands them because we never use them.
But if you’ll remember correctly, when we were reading as children, we didn’t have to keep a dictionary at our elbows to look up every new word we came across. More often than not, we would deduce (or induce) the meaning from the context or what we know about what makes up the word (word endings for the win). And many of us have had the experience of coming across a word we know, but don’t know how to say, because we’ve never heard it out loud, only read it in books.
So go forth! Use cool words! But not to be [shameless Merlin reference] supercilious, condescending, and patronizing [/shameless Merlin reference], but to be understood, and make the meaning clear through the context!