October 19, 2017

Sonder

The time has finally come for me to descend (or perhaps ascend) into the depths of the internet, the eclectic, edgy underbelly of journalism, the quirky, colorful cousin of columns and editorials: the blogosphere.

I was not sure where to begin my first post or what this page would even grow into because while I certainly have plenty to say, I fear that much of what I have to say is something that only I care about (cf. my passion for the Elm Bank mansion).

However, today I found some reassurance. This was when I first met the word “sonder”. Those of you well-acquainted with these internet backwaters, into which I now delve, have probably come across this word before, but for those of you, like me, who are new to this world of tumblr treasures, I will save you the searching and explain.

“Sonder” is a noun that encompasses the feeling that comes with the realization that every individual has their own story; each passerby on the sidewalk, each tollbooth collector, each passenger on an airplane leads a life just as complex and complicated as your own.

I rather liked this word because it finally simplified an idea that I, as a journalist but more importantly as an individual, have grappled with extensively. I finally have six letters compactly pieced together to explain how I see my job as a journalist and why I love my job as a journalist. I am here to share a piece of your story. Not the whole thing, but just a slice.

I love more than anything the ability this job gives me to walk up to a stranger and sit with them — in a coffee shop, the school library, their office — and have them spill out that section of their life. I love learning of their triumphs or troubles, but most of all I am fascinated to learn of their quirks, their interests, their mannerisms– the oddities that prove there is a full person there behind the two or three sentences they may receive in a newspaper article. It is invigorating to feel that whatever you have covered in your hour together, there is always more to learn; there will always be humorous episodes, fateful encounters, stressful evenings awaiting their time to be told or perhaps things that will never be told. But as journalists, the power to unearth those hidden stories lies within us, and there is something thrilling about that in itself.

So I researched this word further, and I found that this gem of a word comes from equally refreshing origins. Blog aficionado John Koenig coined the term — and hundreds more– in his own blog, The Dictionary for Obscure Sorrows. Since 2006, Koenig has aimed create words that “fill a hole in the language” and give name to existential emotions just beyond our grasp of completely understanding. Others include “wytai”, the realization of the world’s absurdities, or “klexos”, the art of appreciating — rather than dwelling– in the past.

Koenig creates these words, but not arbitrarily. He builds them after receiving suggestions for feelings that need naming and carefully researching etymologies to assign the right letters and sounds to a feeling. Sonder is especially appealing because it combines the sounds of “wonder” with the word “story” since after all, that is what it all comes down to: wondering about someone’s story.

This only made me appreciate “sonder” more. Koenig’s blog shows the power and the importance of a word. It celebrates letters, and it acknowledges the fact that every word represents so much more than the compilation of serifs and typeface that stand in its place.

So here it is, my sonder. Stop and dabble around for a while, learn some things about my story, and, maybe, leave a piece of your own.

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