Our Unruly Inner Lives
disorganized — or at any rate, the English language is. Sometimes we have plenty of synonyms or near-synonyms to choose from — for instance, idea, concept, thought, inspiration, notion, surmise, theory, impression, perception, observation, mental picture. More specialized meanings get specialized words. If, say, you're looking for a word that can mean either "a phantom" or "an ideal" — why, eidolon stands ready to serve. And yet some fairly common things and phenomena remain nameless. For instance, what would you call the experience of having recently heard about something for the first time and then starting to notice it everywhere?
That particular word fugitive (which you'll find captured and discussed shortly) is worthy of note, because once you're aware of it, if you begin rooting around in coined words, you'll find it popping up maybe not everywhere but certainly hither and yon. Essentially the same question is asked by the writer Lia Matera in the book In a Word; Matera suggests we call the experience toujours vu. Another book, Wanted Words 2, asks the question, too, and presents more than a dozen possible answers, including newbiquitous and coincidensity. Are toujours vu, newbiquitous, and coincidensity really words? No, not quite. They are the verbal equivalents of trees that fall soundlessly if no one is listening. They are Tinker Bell, whose little light will be extinguished if we don't believe in her. They are words only if we use them.
See how unruly we've managed to get already?
It's only going to get worse — especially if you didn't read the Introduction. We're about to delve into questions that people have posed and answers that others — kind, clever souls — have proposed, and there will be digressions along the way. If you find yourself wondering, What's up with that? turn back! You are worthy, of course, but not fully prepared for the journey ahead.
"What's the word for that restless feeling that causes me to repeatedly peer into the refrigerator when I'm bored? There's nothing to do in there."Robert Clark, of Austin, Texas, is someone who knows this feeling. He wrote: "I often find myself revisiting the same refrigerator I left in disappointment only moments ago, as if this time the perfect snack — which I somehow managed to overlook before — will be there waiting for me. Almost invariably I find that I am suffering from a leftoveractive imagination."
— Nick Fedoroff, Wilmington, N.C.
Cold comfort, refrigerator magnetism, smorgasboredom, and freonnui are all coinages that lots of people suggested. Other ideas include stirvation (Jon Craig, of Del Rey Oaks, Calif.) and procrastifrigeration (Jared Paventi, of Liverpool, N.Y.). A person in the relevant frame of mind, says Dick Bruno, of Hackensack, N.J., is bored chilly. And Chris Rooney, of San Francisco, wrote, "Back in my bachelor days, when I wasn't going out with someone that night I'd head to the fridge for some expiration dating."
Then there were the brand-specific coinages, such as "the urge to play tag with the Maytag" (Marcel Couturier, of Nashua, N.H.); Frigistaire (Bob Segal, of Chicago, among others); and the upscale Sub-Zero interest (Daniel Markovitz, of New York City).
But these are getting much too fancy, don't you think?