I had a car accident in my twenties, and while I’ve always maintained my driver’s license, I tend to avoid driving if I can get away with it. In San Francisco that means a lot of walking, and a lot of Ubering. I’m one of those people who’s always up for a chat, and I often find myself recounting interesting conversations I’ve had with a recent Uber driver.
People have such interesting life stories - that is if you dare to scratch the surface during a first-time chinwag! Which brings me to the word “sonder”... 'the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own'. Isn’t that a grounding thought? Well, four years ago there wasn’t a word for that feeling. Not until John Koenig identified the gap in the English language and decided to fill it with the word Sonder, which he created and published online in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.
There are many more emotions and situations that we don’t have words for in English, like:
Gigil - the irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze something that is really cute (Filipino)
Tartle - the act of hesitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name (Scottish)
Jayus - a joke so poorly told and unfunny you can’t help but laugh (Indonesian)
Komorebi - the interplay between light and leaves when sunlight filters through trees (Japanese)
It’s believed that the more precisely we can describe our emotions with words, known as emotional granularity, the better we are at dealing with our feelings. I guess that’s why kids can become so frustrated when they can’t articulate themselves. It really does go to show the power of words...