août 23, 2004

"The hazy yellow evening bedroom emptiness"

I know it’s been a while, but I’m just going to get right into it.

I’ve been reading this fascinating, weird, epic book called Middlesex and just happened to fancy the following passage so much that I thought I’d share it. (Hope I’m not breaking any laws!)

The narrator’s grandfather has just died suddenly, and upon finding him, the grandmother is sad but also incredibly happy and relieved. The author writes, “Emotions, in my experience, aren’t covered by single words. I don’t believe in ‘sadness,’ ‘joy,’ or ‘regret.’ Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I’d like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, ‘the happiness that attends disaster.’ Or: ‘the disappointment of sleeping with one’s fantasy.’ I’d like to show how ‘intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members’ connects with ‘the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age.’ I’d like to have a word for ‘the sadness inspired by failing restaurants’ as well as for ‘the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.’”

I was cracking up reading this, especially because it reminded me of the vocabulary that we as middle and high school kids used to create for ourselves. The one I still use to this day is “fauxpeal” (which goes hand in hand with “faux-hot”) constructed by the talented Cody to mean when somebody is sexy for a moment, but then not so much. Another is “mipiphany”, for when you have an epiphany which is so slight that it really only counts as a mini epiphany. I know we had more, but I can’t remember any others. (Cody, thoughts?)

What I love about these words is that they can’t really be written off as slang, because they’re not just “our little words” for something everybody else knows by a common name. They’re actual creations, words that define something previously unarticulated. Go us.

Posted by robyn at 09:42 PM