Creativity: You know what I mean?

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The Independent Culture
THERE is no word in English to mean 'a concept for which there is no word in English'. Which is sad, because there is clearly no shortage of such concepts, beginning with 'the nasty-tasting little bit in the bottom end of a banana,' which Mary Andrews wants to warn her young child against eating. Equally unappetisingly, Otto Black wants a term for 'the last bowlful of cereal in the packet, which always consists to a great extent of tiny powdery bits'.

Stuart Cockerill, writing on orange paper, feels the lack of a word to describe 'the thrill of corresponding on orange paper'. He is also struck by the wordlessness of 'the smell of a wet cat evaporating in front of a gas fire,' and 'the cleanliness of wallpaper which lurks behind otherwise innocent pictures'.

Referring back to our original example of the emotion felt when reading an obituary of someone one thought was already dead, Geoff Hinchcliffe points out the related feeling, on reading a 'Where are they now?' article, of wondering 'Who the hell were they then?' Equally emotionally, Mrs F King wants a word for 'the feeling when telling a friend a story and you're not sure you haven't told them it before.'

James Millar offers several negative perspectives including 'the pervading bleakness and resignation of British commuters,' and 'the dimensions of the last parking space available which is just too small to take your vehicle.' Still more dispiritingly, Madeleine Samuel identifies 'the feeling one experiences soon after starting a DIY job, when one realises that the work is going to require a great deal more time and effort than originally envisaged.'

Henry Peplow wants a word for the situation when two people meet head-on in a confined space, are unable to decide which side of each other they should pass, and indulge in a good deal of mutual 'after you- ing' and sideways dancing.

More positively, Paul and Steph recognise 'the peculiar triumph of getting the last available of a limited set (like theatre tickets),' although they also mention the peculiar annoyance of being first in the queue behind the people who get the last tickets.

Otto Black wants a word for 'the violent emotion experienced by the unrequitedly lovelorn, who, having at last managed to stop mooning over the unattainable beloved, suddenly and unexpectedly hears his or her name.'

Nicholas Gough seeks a word for a similarly violent emotion in a different manifestation of lovelorn-ness: the perspiration, racing heart, and butterfly-full stomach caused on being introduced to a beautiful married woman and knowing that he'd probably never see her again.

Michael Rubinstein has a problem with reality. Arguing for a downgrading of 'mere physical manifestations', he wants a word for the real real world, 'including creative imagination, fantasies, illusions, delusions, lies, half-truths, beliefs, dreams and all the other products of the activities of mind and emotions.'

Stuart Reuben wants a word for 'a word which we can use perfectly well in context without needing to know the meaning.' He offers 'petard' as an example. Geoffrey Langley offers: 'Thinking of a devastating answer to an argument when it is just too late.'

Almost too late, he also writes to complain about last week's column: 'I must protest about the inclusion, in a family column, of Stuart Cockerill's recommendation of the trombone as a penis-enlarger, for the following reasons:

'1. You ought to give greater consideration to the moral welfare of your pre-teen readers. I do not wish to have to tell young children that they can only read the Independent after nine o'clock in the evening. I am just thankful that my great aunt reads only the North Somerset Gazette and Keynsham Chronicle, or she would have something to say, I can tell you.

'2. It doesn't seem to work. Which end should I use?'

Finally, Mrs F King wants a word for 'the feeling when telling a friend a story . . . have I told you this one before?'

Next week, we shall report on uses for the Crown Jewels. In the meantime, we shall be pleased to hear from anyone who is aware of words to describe any of the concepts listed above, or from anyone who, in this age of Blu-Tack, can suggest any imaginative uses for drawing pins. All ideas to: Creativity, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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