The Language of Air
The Language of Air is a crowd-sourced dictionary composed of new words that describe qualities of air. The words help expand the ways in which we can think about and discuss air; if we were more equipped to describe air, would we take better care of it? Accumulated initially through a national contest, the dictionary can be added to by submitting new words below. A complete list of the words, their definitions, and their creators can be found here.
The Language of Air working group
Nor Hall, writer and psychoanalyst
David Grant, screenwriter
Kira Obolensky and Shawn McConneloug, Gymnasium co-founders
Brad Kaspari, wall design
Sieng Lee, web design
The Language of Air invents, appropriates and repurposes words in order to re-imagine the qualities of air we move through each day.
You can draw inspiration from personal observations, cultural mythologies, scientific lexicon, slang, other languages, and imaginative word meldings to come up with new words that describe a quality of air, its smell, texture, experience, impact.
1. Submit your word(s) including pronunciation
2. A dictionary definition in English with possible origin
3. Use it in a sentence or two
Here are some examples to spark your imagination:
Purgent (per’junt) adjective
1. having a strong, pungent odor that feels unhealthy, or germ-riddenorigins: purge from…the Latin purgare, to pour out; and germ, a microorganism, especially one that causes disease.
Mathilda could not describe the quality of the air she had experienced in her elderly father’s room at Mount Holly Home for the Aged. She wanted the right word to describe the smell that felt as if it might infect her if she breathed too deeply. “The room’s air is purgent,” she said. “I tried hard not to breathe it in, for fear of coming down with some kind of airborne disease.”
Tarfucht (tar-fuekt) adjective
1. the smell and sight of tar permeating the air. origins: tar, a black, noxious, sticky coal-based substance; and Old English ficken, fucken, to be struck as by lightning.
Summer brought the season of road construction to the Midwest. Even the car’s air-conditioning could not filter out the hot, tarfucht air; Lenora held her handkerchief, scented with lavender, to her nose as a last ditch effort to protect her nostrils from the burning odor.