Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Looking through an online thesaurus the other day I was gloppened, absolutely butterbunged by the wonderful synonyms I found for "surprised". Don't get me wrong, there was nothing ferly about the experience. On the contrary, it was a mirific experience!

Ahh, but seriously, these words, gloppen, butterbung, ferly, and mirific share something in common besides meaning, sort of, "surprised".

They are also, in my estimation, emotionally onomatopoeia-ic -- which is to say that the sound of the words evokes the emotion itself, just as sound of the word "bang" so perfectly evokes the sound of a palm slapping a desk.

But wait! That doesn't make sense! How can a sound conflate with an emotion?

Take "ferly" for example. Okay, well sure, it means "surprise"--well, the kind of surprise that you get when you're walking in a dark, dank basement and this enoromous centipede scurries off on the wall, right beside your head.

But how on earth does the sound conflate with the emotion?

Well ... I confess: I don't know.

But here are two clues:

1. First, there are scientific studies, by scientists no less, that show that swearing can lessen pain. Clearly, I suggest, this proves that there is magic in language, some sort of means by which the sound of spoken word triggers, conflate, or (dare I say) materializes an emotion.

2. Second, there are more scientific studies, obviously quite original and not to be disputed, that show that what we touch impacts our emotional feelings. If, I dare again to say, there is some sort of fixed constant between our sense of touch and our emotions, then why not a direct link between sound and emotion?

What do you think? Is there some sort of synesthestic connection between the sounds of word and emotional states?

If you say "yes" give us an example. Something like "aha!" which seems to so clearly articulate, onomatopoeia-ically, the sensation of an aha moment.

If you say "no", well give us an example of some totally contrary, a word that sounds exactly the opposite of the emotional state it describes.


  1. I know it's not an emotional state but i always thought the word pulchritude (beauty) suggested rather the opposite of its actual meaning....

    More later, gotta run.

  2. Ooh, nice one!

    Here's a "feeling" word (tactile, not emotional) that totally works for me: "prickly" -- totally what it sounds like!

    There's actually a linguistic theory supporting that example. I'll post on that later...


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