Is it a real word?


For a dictionary person such as myself, the title Bureau for Linguistical Reality had great attraction.  A little searching revealed that this was a public participatory artwork devised by two women, Heidi Quante and Alicia Escott,to which we could all contribute. Visitors provide words that are needed in this world for experiences or feelings or phenomena that lack a name at present. The artists describe themselves as both finding that they were searching for words that didn’t exist to express what they wanted to say, and were therefore obliged to invent words to fill the gap.  They felt that other people shared this experience and could contribute.

 A number of the words in the artwork at present are to do with our changing environment, because this is where the artists felt the major work was required as the world changed rapidly around us. 

There is ennuipocalypse described as ‘the concept of a doomsday that occurs at an excruciatingly slow day to day time scale.’ The end result of this slow pace is that we cease to feel the impending apocalypse as a crisis and become bored with the whole idea, often retreating into a digital world in preference to the real one. The word is a blend of ennui boredom + apocalypse.

 Another offering was psychic corpus dissonance, the disconnect that you feel between the pleasurable feelings occasioned by beautiful weather and the sense of unease brought on by the recognition that the weather is totally unseasonal. 

 Not all the coinages are triggered by concerns such as this, as demonstrated by kincara defined as ‘a person of any gender who plays an active maternal role in helping to raise children they have not physically birthed, yet whom they thoughtfully and lovingly help to raise. They are non-biological chosen family who actively contribute to a constellation of care. This nurturing involves everything from helping with the everyday tasks of raising a child, to teaching, to unconditional love.’ The word origin is kin family+ the Italian cara  beloved.


Coining new words is a form of word play which we all enjoy. I don’t think that the Bureau is serious in its attempts to plug the gaps in our lexicon, although they stand by their statement that until we have the words to describe our changing reality, we will not be equipped to do anything about it. They appreciate that it takes more than a participatory artwork to get words into the dictionary, to make them real words. At the very least it needs more than one person to feel the need for a word for it to gain currency.  Their role is a consciousness-raising one.

 The thing that finally endeared me to the Bureau is that it is located at the Institute for Advanced Uncertainty in California. I feel that I could shine as a student of the Institute.

Sue ButlerComment