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The Glossary of Big Moods

2020 August 14 min read

The long-awaited sequel to the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows... some new words for oddly-specific situations, written from personal experience.

I've dabbled in neology here before, but I'm branching out a bit this time from actual potentially useful terms to explore some of the slimmest, most obscure crevasses of the human experience. I teased this on Twitter as a joke a while back, but most of these are actually taken from old journal entries of mine, and I'm mildly curious as to how many of them are relatable at all to other people. Let's get into it!


cryptophantasia (n.) when you start humming or reciting lyrics in your head and your focus drifts but the song is still going in your subconscious, so when you come back to it you find yourself in a totally new section of the song, as if your brain just hit mute without pausing.

dysvexia (n.) knowing the colours on most national flags, but having no idea how people remember the order they appear - does Germany have red or yellow first? what about Belgium? which one of the red and white ones is Poland?

hypnoia (n.) that brief, scary moment of thinking you're in a dream when, as you step out of the shower and head back to your room, you begin to faintly hear the sound of your alarm clock that you forgot to turn off.

paraphrasia (n.) when you're trying to find an opening to say something and you need to keep thinking of different ways to begin the sentence so it doesn't sound like you're persisting on it and you don't get the additional embarrassment if it doesn't live up to that anticipation.

probabilistic OCD (n.) obsessing over exceedingly minute probabilities of scary things happening, to the point where every time you walk up a flight of stairs you think to yourself "what are the chances of me falling down these stairs on any particular day?" and then realize that no matter how low of a realistic number you settle on, it becomes actually significant if you take those stairs enough throughout the course of your life.

Schrodinger's fingering (n.) a section of a piano part that you can only play if you're not focusing on it.

? (n.) the feeling of self-cringe you get when thinking vaguely about something you wrote a while ago, a feeling that goes away entirely when you go back and read it, only to return just as strong the next time you're reminded of it.

? (n.) when the last bite of your food gets stuck in your teeth and you have no more food to chase it out with, and you are either forced by this predicament into getting more food, or reduced to several minutes of humiliating and usually fruitless tongue acrobatics.

? (n.) a permanent, day-to-day state of very slight, tolerable hunger, the type that fades out of your consciousness with even the slightest distraction, but that you know would take at least a 2500-calorie meal to really affect at all.

? (n.) the indescribable smell associated with being sleep-deprived, so abstract that when it's gone you can't really decide it if was actually a smell or just some other weird kind of vague sensation.

? (n.) the act of openly telling someone that you're withholding information from them for the sake of their mental well-being, knowing that there is a huge psychological risk that they might not be satisfied without the information, and they might start pressing you on it, hoping that it's not as bad as you think - and then having to update their conception of how bad it is each time you keep silent, turning a potentially harmless act of compassion into an infinite downward spiral of anxiety bounded only by the limits of your collective capacity to catastrophize.

? (n.) waiting alone at a bus stop and not knowing how conspicuously you should signal to the approaching bus driver that they don't need to stop for you, whether you should visibly step away as they approach, turn your back, or just stand there and let them stop for no reason because it's no big deal.

? (n.) that brief, blissful moment when you wake up, just after realizing that your shitty dreams aren't real but just before realizing that your actual shitty life is real.

? (n. pl.) the little sounds and words that pop up in your head seemingly from nowhere when you have no external stimuli around you, like you're adjusting the knob and tuning into different radio stations really fast inside your brain.

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