Internet awesome: The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

My recent ‘discovery’ of Twitter (what do you mean it’s been around since 2006?) has definitely upped my ability to find more internet awesome.

Latest find? John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (@ObscureSorrows).

With the mission “to harpoon, bag and tag wild sorrows, then release them back into the subconscious,” the Dictionary is a compilation of made-up words and definitions. Koenig surveys the modern day emotional landscape, draws out new and potentially universalising experiences, and labels them. Kind of like Adam naming animals. Except with silver-tongued snark. And no animals.

The simplicity of the project is what makes it so bold. Because seriously, who has the gall to write a dictionary of words no one knows for feelings no one has ever said?

Turns out some guy in Minnesota.

Some of my faves:

heartworm n. a relationship or friendship that you can’t get out of your head, which you thought had faded long ago but is still somehow alive and unfinished, like an abandoned campsite whose smoldering embers still have the power to start a forest fire.

kairosclerosis n. the moment you realize that you’re currently happy—consciously trying to savor the feeling—which prompts your intellect to identify it, pick it apart and put it in context, where it will slowly dissolve until it’s little more than an aftertaste.

trumspringa n. 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 back to their cubicles in the city.

apomakrysmenophobia n. fear that your connections with people are ultimately shallow, that although your relationships feel congenial at the time, an audit of your life would produce an emotional safety deposit box of low-interest holdings and uninvested windfall profits, which will indicate you were never really at risk of joy, sacrifice or loss.

the kinda blues n. the sad awareness that the unfolding plot of your life feels new and profound but is not unique, just one of a few dozen possible riffs on the same chord progression, while the tunes reverberating from the jukebox in your chest are all covers of old standards from the Great Emotional Songbook, which is 98% identical to that of the chimpanzee.


Consistently brilliant, the Dictionary binds labels to the small moments of connection, frustration, nostalgia, fear and meta-ness that accompany contemporary existence. Koenig is especially fantastic at dissecting and commenting on the intricate dynamics within the interpersonal.

Currently at 49 words. Carry on, brother.


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