An A to Z of old words to calm and inspire hope – The Guardian

Posted: May 24, 2020 at 7:46 am


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Words of wellbeing: Concubium is the soundest, calmest, deepest part of your sleep. Illustration: Eva Bee/The Observer

Like language, our emotions are universal and whatever fears and anxieties we are now experiencing, someone else in centuries gone by has felt the same way. Here is an A-Z of archaic and forgotten words that at some point in the past exactly described an elusive sense of peace, calm and delight. So, if you want to know your agathism from your euneirophrenia, read on and draw comfort from these linguistic oddities

Agathism Its hard to be an optimist knowing that there are tough times ahead. But in lieu of optimism, theres always agathism a word coined in 1830 for the belief that all things eventually get better, though the means by which they do is not always easy. It is a word to remind us that though we may be in for hard times, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Bummel Our daily constitutional neednt be an exhausting run around the block. Derived from a German word for strolling, a bummel is nothing more than a relaxing leisurely walk or wander.

Concubium Adopted into English from Latin in the 1600s, the concubium is the soundest, calmest, deepest part of your sleep. That time of night when all men are at rest, as one 17th-century dictionary put it.

Dolorifuge Whatever it is that makes you happy, that is your dolorifuge: this 19th-century term describes anything or anyone that alleviates feelings of pain or sadness.

Euneirophrenia One of the strangest side-effects of our curtailed routines at the moment is that our brains are working overtime while we sleep, so the word euneirophrenia might come in useful. It describes the wholly pleasing feeling you have on waking from an equally pleasant dream.

Focillation Derived from the Latin for nourish, a focillation is a momentary act of comfort or refreshment. Take it as a reminder that it is perfectly fine to take some time out, whenever you need it.

Glee-dream If you find solace in films or music, or find that youre dearly missing the theatre or cinema, the word you are looking for is glee-dream. The modern form of the Old English gleodream, the Oxford English Dictionary defines this as delight of minstrelsy that is, the pleasure that comes from a musical performance or similar entertainment.

Heterocentric How we all should and, thankfully, how a great many of us currently are living our lives: if youre heterocentric then youre more concerned with other people than you are yourself.

Interfulgent A fitting metaphor for the triumph of light in dark times. Derived from the Latin word for shining, something that is interfulgent shines through or between that which would otherwise obscure it as sunshine through clouds or the leaves of trees.

Jamb-friend A jamb is a supporting timber, of course, which makes a jamb-friend an early 19th-century word for a friend with whom you could quite happily sit by a fireside talking and relaxing well into the early hours.

Kaffeeklatsch Borrowed from German in the 1800s, a kaffeeklatsch is a chattering catch-up with friends and family over endless cups of coffee. Its a lot more poetic than the Victorian alternative: according to one contemporary dictionary, scandal-loving women who like to meet over a cup of tea were once known as muffin-wallopers.

Back in the 1600s, laetificate meant to lift someones spirits

Laetificate Its a word not much used since the 1600s, but its one you might need today or might be called on to offer to someone else. Quite simply, to laetificate is to lift someones spirits.

Meliorism George Eliot coined the word meliorism to define her outlook on life, once writing to the psychologist James Sully to explain that: I dont know that I ever heard anybody use the word meliorist except myself. Operating halfway between optimism and realism, meliorism is the belief that the world no matter what shape it may be in can always be improved by the concerted effort of mankind.

Nikhedonia Nike was the Greek goddess of victory. Hedone (as in hedonism) was a Greek word for pleasure. Put those two together and you have nikhedonia a term from psychology for the inspiring, adrenalin-raising excitement of anticipating a future success.

Omnibenevolence Just as an omnipotent person has power over everything, an omnibenevolent person exhibits kindness to everything and everyone. That endless, all-encompassing compassion is omnibenevolence.

Peeled-egg Were all guilty of worrying that the worst could suddenly befall us, but rarely imagine that something just as unexpectedly wonderful could take place. JRR Tolkien coined the word eucatastrophe to describe an unforeseen event of sheer good fortune, but the Scots beat him to it. First recorded in Scottish proverbs dating from the 1800s, a peeled-egg is: A stroke of good fortune which one has not had to strive for. It was once a popular name given to farms established on land with unanticipated natural advantages.

Queem Something described as queem is perfectly calm or serene or by extension, perfectly smooth and level. Queemness, likewise, can be used to describe perfect serenity, or perfect smoothness and levelness, while two things that work queemly with one another are either perfectly harmonious, or, like two parts of a joint, snug and well adapted to one another.

Adopted from French, retrouvailles literally means 'refinding'

Retrouvailles Adopted from French, retrouvailles literally means refinding but its more usually understood as the French equivalent of what we might call a reunion or homecoming. Recently the word came to be used more imaginatively to describe the utter happiness or joy sparked by reuniting or catching up with someone you havent seen in a long time. A word well worth recalling in the months ahead.

Supernaculum It might be a fine glass of wine or whisky or nothing more than a perfectly brewed and timed cup of tea. A supernaculum is a drink so appreciated that it is savoured to its very last drop.

Traumatropism A tree partly felled by gales or lightning can often continue growing albeit in some ever more unwieldy or implausible shape. That undeterred response to earlier damage is an example of a phenomenon called traumatropism. Taken literally, it reminds us that nature is stronger and more resilient than we could ever imagine; metaphorically, it tells us that harsh setbacks need not end our progress.

Unsoulclogged Its not the most handsome of words, but were all striving to be unsoulclogged. It is total contentment, peace of mind, and freedom from sadness and dejection or, as one 1881 dictionary defined it, the state of not being weighed down in spirit.

Villeggiatura When youre tired of the city or your usual routine, its time for a villeggiatura. Adopted into English from Italian in the 18th century, a villeggiatura is a restorative trip or holiday to the countryside, taken to lift the spirits and unwind the mind.

Worldcraft Ageing is hardly the most welcome of lifes certainties. But for every word to remind us of its drawbacks (to be eildencumbered is to be held back by age), there is one for its seldom considered positives. Worldcraft is an 18th-century word for the unmatched cumulative wisdom of an aged person whose long life has given them unique and much venerated insight far beyond anything a younger, less experienced person could ever imagine.

Xenodochy Hospitality offered to strangers. The prefix xeno comes from the Greek word for strange or foreign, but we only tend to encounter it today in xenophobia. Now seems an apt time to highlight one of its overlooked opposites.

Yahrsider We are all looking out for our yahrsiders at the moment. A dialect term from the 18th century, a yahrsider is someone from the same family or town as you, or who shares the same community spirit.

Zenobia A courageous and effective third-century queen of Palmyra, Zenobia expanded her kingdom into the almighty Palmyrene Empire, stretching from Ankara to Aswan. Her name has been adopted as a term for a powerful, unstoppably determined woman.

The Cabinet of Calm: Soothing Words for Troubled Times by Paul Anthony Jones (Elliott & Thompson, 12.99) is out now

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An A to Z of old words to calm and inspire hope - The Guardian

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May 24th, 2020 at 7:46 am

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