Sonder & Watashiato

Neologisms that describe feeling and emotions

“The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows” was published in 2021, his author John Keoing came up with the idea to create new words that had never been linguistically described before. His neologisms intend to define uncommon feelings with the purpose of filling the gaps in our emotional language.

The book seemed to me an interesting and playful experiment. Neologisms are based on his research on etymologies and meanings of used prefixes, suffixes, and word roots. In particular, there are two words that appeared to me quite peculiar:

The first one is sonder, a noun, that describes the realization that every stranger, each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own, populated with their own longings, fears, habits, worries, routines, and a long etcetera. The awareness that everyone has a story.

The second one is watashiato, a noun, that defines the curiosity about the impact you have had on the lives of other people, wondering which of your harmless actions or long-forgotten words might have altered the plot of their stories in ways you may never get to see.

These two neologisms made me think how unique each individual is. We are a distinct combination of multiple characteristics which are found in others, but which very rarely occur in exactly the same combination in two persons. Not only from the perspective of our biochemical uniqueness as living organisms, but also from the perspective of our stories, experiences, conditionings that shape and color the way we see the world.

Sonder and watashaioto also may make one reflect how every individual is connected to others, loosely or closely, by a unique combination of filaments which go beyond the frontiers of space and time. Every being assembles past loyalties, present needs and visions of the future in a web of different contours, which are influenced by heterogenous elements borrowed from other individuals, even by strangers with their own stories, passing by in our lives. We are constantly giving and taking, we invariably influence one another, and our actions -as modest or small they may seem- do impact other people; we are continuously forming the filaments of an intricate gossamer world.

Having this curiosity present in our lives, perhaps, may help us see that in this repeated process of influencing one another, anyone becomes a person capable of making a difference, however modest. We all have a responsibility in shaping our reality, and as we go through the art of molding, we can remind ourselves too that as unique and different we all are, having all our own distinct stories, we do share the common desire to be happy and well.

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