“There are some Irish words there, all wrapped in longing, gloom and nostalgia.” – The Irish Times

Suzy Dent feels lost. The lexicographer and Dictionary’s Corner author just finished filming for the 40th anniversary of Channel 4’s countdown, which is understandable, surprising, and open-ended. (You guessed it: exhausting). It also feels connected. It has nothing to do with her million-plus Twitter followers, but rather “on Twitter”, the whole thing “flatted”, or “beaten with pleasurable excitement”. That’s because her latest book, Sentimental Dictionary: True Words of Your Anxiety, is due to be published to Zwodder, this month.

“I’m just so nervous about releasing the book, as I always am,” she says, when we’re on the phone. “But I am also excited. Between the words is a beautiful old word.”

The book collects unusual and interesting words, as well as big words that we all know (jealousy, greed, anger, anxiety), that express what we feel. According to the book’s introduction, “those who rely on a wider range of vocabulary to express their feelings are much better able to handle them.”

Dent says the book is more “special in nature” than comprehensive. I called him on purpose a Emotional dictionary instead of The An emotional dictionary, because it is completely subjective. These are words that sang to me for a reason.”

Dent (57 years old) is as cute in conversation as she looks on screen. The meanings and origins of even the most obscure of words come naturally to her (perhaps not surprisingly, dictionary reading is one of her “favorite pastimes”), but she never appears as arrogant, only enthusiastic.

She’s not sure where this craving for words came from, but she remembers studying the advent of shampoo and ketchup bottles as a child, before she could even read. “I was determined to try to decode it somehow,” she says. “For me, what must have been the most boring ingredient in the world was great.”

As reported by her uncle, Peter Dent, the poet. “I think it would be hard to find anything of his poems now, but to me it was really special the fact that he wrote these wonderful poems. And my father was a wonderful reader. So I think these are the ones who gave me this love of language.”

Dent studied modern languages ​​at Oxford before completing his master’s degree in German at Princeton University. Her first appearance was on Countdown in 1992. She was a lexicographer for Oxford University Press, which had an arrangement with Channel 4 to provide “word rulers” for the show. Snaps of Dent in her first appearance, looking freaked out next to luxurious-haired actress Rola Linska, can be found on YouTube.

Thirty years later, the more experienced Dent has become the longest-running member of Count Down, having outlasted the likes of Carol Fordman, De Lynam, Des O’Connor, Jeff Stalling, Nick Heuer, Anne Robinson, and of course the late Richard Whiteley.

I think some of my favourites [Countdown] Memories of Richard Whiteley,” she says. “He was there when I joined, right from the start. He had that magical relationship with Carol – one of the best doubles in the business really. I loved his enjoyment of the words, and the way he tossed back on the chair when one of his favorite words appeared, which might be leotards, a favorite in the countdown, or the moonset, which he also liked.”

These days, Dent shares screen with host Colin Murray, number wizard Rachel Riley and an ever-changing group of contestants and guests of Dictionary Corner. The likes of Sir Ranulf Fiennes, Joe Brand, Jerry Springer and others joined her in her language corner, helping to find the longest possible words from the nine-letter scramble.

But what’s her secret to producing winning words in 30 seconds? Does the dictionary help?

“It helps to find a word the contestant might offer. I can try to anticipate their suggestion.” “But that obviously doesn’t help you decipher the nine-character codes.”

In fact, some were skeptical about the transition from a print dictionary to an online dictionary for this reason.

“I think a lot of people thought I had some kind of anagram finder, but I don’t at all,” Dent laughs. “The only reason to do this is that nowadays printed dictionaries are in a much lower reprint cycle, because most of us turn to online dictionaries, while the online Oxford Dictionary is regularly updated. What we didn’t want was for the contestant to submit a word that was currency, even For a year, and in order not to be in the dictionary.”

As for finding the best lyrics, she humbly admits: “I don’t always beat a contestant, I have to say. I get beaten up regularly by some really good contestants. And I love it. I also get tweets from people saying ‘Oh, you missed that'” And I like that too, because there’s a feeling we’re all playing it together. There’s also the fact that I’ve been doing this for years, and it’s muscle.”

When Dent isn’t flexing her lexical muscles on the countdown, she’s filming her own late-night alternative comedy, 8 Out of 10 Cats Counting Down, or recording her podcast, Something Rhymes With Purple, with the regular Dictionary Corner Gyles Brandreth. You probably didn’t know you were interested in the etymological history of water vessels or arms before listening, but you’ll fall asleep five minutes later.

“The podcast was definitely my oasis during lockdown, because it was one piece of my job,” Dent says. “I was with my girls [daughters Lucy and Thea] At home, but I spoke to Gyles on screen, so it was something I was really looking forward to.”

It was those stressful months of lockdown that also prompted her to write a book focused on feelings. “After the years we’ve been through, it just seemed like a good deal to deal with, because I think a lot of us went through a lot of different emotions. I mean, roller coasters are kind of overused, but it kind of feels like that. I just wanted, especially during lockdown, to find Words that would somehow express what I was feeling.”

Dent relied on history (the Oxford English Dictionary’s tool for finding historical synonyms was particularly useful) and a variety of languages ​​to compile her emotional dictionary.

“There are some Irish words in there, and they are all sort of wrapped in longing and melancholy and nostalgia,” she says. Indeed, there is a lament lost, a lament over the living lost; aduantas, a feeling of unease about being in new surroundings; iarmhaireacht, Loneliness at Dawn (Thirty-two words for the field are recognized in Manchán Magan in the entry for this), and more.

But Irish words aren’t the only bleak words out there. Many of the words “feelings” tend towards negativity.

“I always find it sad that positive words go away, while negative words stay,” says Dent. She gave an example of the word breath: “She is recovering from despondency, which is so much needed at the moment.” But there is only one recorded entry for the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Is there a reason why negative words last longer than positive words?

“I don’t know if we’re all pessimists at heart,” she says. “Sure, if you look at English, and I don’t know if it’s the same with Irish either – I think it’s true in German – there’s an instinct to gossip. And when you talk about people it’s usually negative. A lot of regional languages ​​cluster around things like ugly Or the annoying, or, if you look at the language of the past, people twirling their legs or knocking them over, or just the weird side of life.”

Missing positives from words like indignant, rude, impractical etc. are something of a riveting dent. “All the positive versions of those [apart from disgruntled] She was next door first.” “You can be strong, you can be polite, you can be criminal, you can be full of birds as well as featherless. But those things just slipped away and we stuck to the negativity. I’ve been talking for years about how to take back all the positive words.”

Of course Dent knows as much as anyone that trying to control language is, in the words of Samuel Johnson, “as futile as the wind.”

“Language will always elude us. We will always be one step ahead. But that is how it should be.” “She always responds to us and what our needs are.”

It would be easy to talk for hours about the language and its slippery nature, but Dent has another interview to get to. Besides promoting books, she is preparing for a podcast tour, showcasing her own shows. If you’re not careful, you may risk becoming “backward” (exhausted from too much work).

“I have a fantasy of fainting for four weeks in my diary and then doing absolutely nothing,” she says. “Actually, we need a name for this, but there is a word in German: Eilkrankheit.” (This translates to “impulsive disease.”)

“It’s the fact that you’re so busy all the time it becomes like an infection that you can’t stop. I find that when I finally stop, if I do it for an extended period of time, I absolutely freak out. My body and mind obviously aren’t used to stopping, and I think I need to train. Those muscles.”

Emotional Dictionary: True Words for What You Feel, from Anxiety to Zwodder, by Susie Dent, published by John Murray

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