This weekend, we finally caught on to the extremely justified hype around Ted Lasso. What. A. Show.
An interesting concept was thrown around in one of the episodes, completely unrelated to the plot. That’s what made it all the more delightful. ‘Semantic satiation’. It’s a psychological phenomenon that occurs when you say or read a word too many times and it starts to sound weird and meaningless.
Phenomenon. Phenomenon. Phenomenon.
Pheno-menon. Pheno-menon?! Malayali aano?
Now this got me thinking, there are words that sound like what they mean. No, not in an onomatopoeic way. More like the word evokes a feeling of what it could mean. The way we say “whisper”, for example. “Whisper” evokes a feeling of hush-hushedness. Or “twinkle”- you can almost imagine something sparkly when you hear the word.
Turns out, there’s a term for such words, too! Ideophones. Ideophones are words that evoke an idea or a sensation, be it a sound, a movement, an action, a colour, a shape, etc. The ones that evoke a sense of sound are easier to grasp — boom, thud, swish, clink. It’s the others that are quite fascinating.
I realise this may be subjective; and I’d love to hear your thoughts!
“Wobble” makes me think of something unsteady. When someone says they want to “crimp” their hair, I can picture them with a noodle hair-do. When something is described as “discombobulated”, I can visualize it to be all messed up. For those who understand Tamil, you can almost feel yourself squirm when you hear the word “kozha-kozha” (கொழகொழ). For the longest time I thought “sannatta” (सन्नाटा) in Hindi meant noisy simply because it feels like a noisy word when you say it!
Anyway, that’s my new thing for today. Wish I had known about semantic satiation when I was 10 and my mom would yell at me for not doing something despite her asking me to do it a 100 times.
Some of the parts:
Semantic Satiation: Why Words Sometimes Sound Weird or Lose All Meaning
It's a bizarre scourge afflicting editors and writers, casual readers, and pretty much anyone pondering a word for any…
Please watch Ted Lasso on Apple TV. Thanks.