Pop quiz time!
The word “vellichor” is:
a. An adjective describing an agitated, violent state
b. A term taken from Latin meaning “one who sings”
c. The name of an alien species in the “Frigid Worlds” series of sci-fi novels
d. A word indicating the strange wistfulness of used bookstores
Ready? Have you chosen your final answer? No going back and switching to a different choice. No cheating either.
The correct answer is “d“.
Vellichor is “the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time—filled with thousands of old books you’ll never have time to read, each of which is itself locked in its own era, bound and dated and papered over like an old room the author abandoned years ago, a hidden annex littered with thoughts left just as they were on the day they were captured.”
In a recent post, I alluded to the many terms invented or popularized by Shakespeare, but he is not alone in being an etymological magician. People create words even today. As some of you may already know, Vellichor is one such newly invented word. It was created by John Koenig and placed on his website The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows in 2013.
I don’t believe that Koenig has explained his rationale behind the world, but if I had to guess, I would say that he drew from the words “vellum” and “choral” to make vellichor. In a more literal sense, the word could mean “the singing of parchment”. (It could, of course, instead be random or simply based off of the Latin roots though the Latin “vel” does not appear to relate to vellichor’s definition.)
Regardless, there is something beautiful both about the word vellichor and about man’s ability to create new words when the occasion calls for it. After all of humanity’s time on this little blue marble, there are still experiences that we haven’t put a name to.
I doubt that I will ever become a great inventor of words myself, but I appreciate their power and the need for them.
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Image Attribution: ESO/S. Brunier, “From One “Alien World” to Another”. 31 January 2011.