Barbara Boehm Miller
Fiction writer and creator of the character, Lola Rolls

The Nonce Word or Special Words for Special Times

Posted By on Monday, October 26th, 2020

A nonce word is defined as a word coined and used for a particular occasion or set of circumstances. The Steve Miller Band singing about the “pompatus of love” in that song, The Joker, is a good example– not to mention my personal favorite. (Full disclosure: For a long time, I thought it was the “prophetess of love,” which also makes sense.)

Last month, I expected to feel the Septembering like I do every year. It’s a feeling of hope and newness, a holdover from the start of many school years, a clean slate for me to get my act together and be organized and get it right. Even now, with my education behind me, the Septembering would still come, every year –except this one.

The expected sensation of second-chance renewal was instead sidelined by the confusing, frustrating battles with technology as I struggled to guide my children through virtual schooling. There were moments of transcendence of course, like there always are, such as when one of my daughters described for me the scent of new crayons. “They just smell so fresh,” she said. “Do you know what I mean?” Indeed, I did.

Even so, the Septembering eluded me this year. This was followed by the tragic absence of the Octoberance, which is the wistful, autumn-inspired sense of longing and remembrance. It is a not unpleasant sadness, a sense of ending, and a tugging nostalgia. There was no shift though, no feeling of moving forward in time, of time itself moving forward, and no regretful acknowledgement that time moves in only one direction.

Shifts in the weather notwithstanding, October felt like September, which felt like August, and so on and so forth. More than anything, the sensation is like swimming in glue, or at least what I imagine it would be like to swim in glue.

I think of maybe making a new nonce word to describe the feeling of a thwarted Septembering and Octoberance, but the word “disappointment,” well known and understood, seems to cover this idea and will also work well, I imagine for the coming holiday season.

There is comfort though in imagining the nonce word, which I hope to need at some point in the future, to describe the surprising sensation when ordinary gestures or actions, like resting a hand on a friend’s arm or whispering into someone’s ear  in that close-in, damp, conspiratorial way, feel extraordinary and astounding.



Barbara Boehm Miller
Fiction Writer and Creator of the Character, Lola Rolls

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