Alazia

The fear that you’re no longer able to change. After so many years wondering what kind of person you were going to become one day, somewhere you forgot that this question actually has an answer, and that ‘one day’ will eventually arrive… if it hasn’t already. Coined in 2012 by John Koenig in The Dictionary…

Koinophobia

The Fear that You’ve Lived an Ordinary Life. While you’re in it, life seems epic. Fiery, tenuous, and unpredictable. But once you have some distance from it, everything seems to shrink, until it’s almost out of focus. So you begin scanning your life looking for something interesting or beautiful. But all you see is ordinary…

Swish Fulfillment

The feeling of delicate luck after casually tossing something across the room and hitting your target so crisply and perfectly that you feel no desire to even attempt another shot, which is a more compelling argument for the concept of monogamous love than anything sung to a guitar. Coined in 2012 by John Koenig in…

Antematter

The dream versions of things in your life, which appear totally foreign but are still somehow yours—your anteschool, your antefriends, your antehome—all part of a parallel world whose gravitational pull raises your life’s emotional stakes, increasing the chances you’ll end up betting everything you have. Coined in 2012 by John Koenig in The Dictionary of…

Degrassé

Entranced and unsettled by the vastness of the universe, experienced in a jolt of recognition that the night sky is not just a wallpaper but a deeply foreign ocean whose currents are steadily carrying off all other castaways, who share our predicament but are already well out of earshot—worlds and stars who would’ve been lost…

Mauerbauertraurigkeit

The inexplicable urge to push people away, even close friends who you really like—as if all your social tastebuds suddenly went numb, leaving you unable to distinguish cheap politeness from the taste of genuine affection, unable to recognize its rich and ambiguous flavors, its long and delicate maturation, or the simple fact that each tasting…

Pâro

The feeling that no matter what you do is always somehow wrong—that any attempt to make your way comfortably through the world will only end up crossing some invisible taboo—as if there’s some obvious way forward that everybody else can see but you, each of them leaning back in their chair and calling out helpfully,…

Énouement

The bitter sweetness of having arrived here in the future, where you can finally get the answers to how things turn out in the real world—who your baby sister would become, what your friends would end up doing, where your choices would lead you, exactly when you’d lose the people you took for granted—which is…

Reverse Shibboleth

The practice of answering a cellphone with a generic “Hello?” as if you didn’t already know exactly who was calling—which is a little like the egg requirement that marketers added to early cake mixes in the 1950s, an antiquated extra step that’s only there to reassure you that it’s an authentic home-cooked meal, just like…

Gnossienne

A moment of awareness that someone you’ve known for years still has a private and mysterious inner life, and somewhere in the hallways of their personality is a door locked from the inside, a stairway leading to a wing of the house that you’ve never fully explored—an unfinished attic that will remain maddeningly unknowable to…

Rückkehrunruhe

The feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness—to the extent you have to keep reminding yourself that it happened at all, even though it felt so vivid just days ago—which makes you wish you could smoothly cross-dissolve back into everyday life, or just hold the…

Vemödalen

The frustration of photographing something amazing when thousands of identical photos already exist—the same sunset, the same waterfall, the same curve of a hip, the same closeup of an eye—which can turn a unique subject into something hollow and pulpy and cheap, like a mass-produced piece of furniture you happen to have assembled yourself. Coined…

Trumspringa

The temptation to step off your career track and become a shepherd in the mountains, following your flock between pastures with a sheepdog and a rifle, watching storms at dusk from the doorway of a small cabin, just the kind of hypnotic diversion that allows your thoughts to make a break for it and wander…

Semaphorism

A conversational hint that you have something personal to say on the subject but don’t go any further. An emphatic nod, a half-told anecdote, an enigmatic ‘I know the feeling’, which you place into conversations like those little flags that warn diggers of something buried underground. Coined in 2012 by John Koenig in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, a…