How Do You Write About a Word that Doesn’t Exist?

By Madison Pawle

My dead grandmother was at the Preston market today, near the deli section sitting next to an old man in a wheelchair. On the table in front of them was a paper bag ripped open, hot chips spilling from its insides.  

I watched from a nearby bench as she fed him. Picking up a chip, breaking it in half and placing that half carefully into his waiting mouth. Every now and then she used a tissue to dab at the edges of his lips and chin, folding the tissue over itself each time 

Something about the lines of her body, her gestures, the tenderness of her careMemory happens in unexpected momentspotholes in the quotidian. In this sense, the past is one with the present because memory is happening in real-time, this immediate place. So, aI  






Or can it be more than both? Multiple, multiplying?  

Language holds but it also slips. There are so many experiences/sensations/moments that shrug language off, resists its demand to choose, to know.  
Samuel Beckett talks about boring holes in language, one after the other, as a way of making a space for all that lurks behind a wordwhether it be something or nothingto seep through. This, he writes, is the ultimate goal for a writer.  

For every sentence I have written here, I have backspaced three. I am reaching for something ineffable, something that falls beyond my grasp of language.  
Is this act of writing and rewriting palimpsestic? Do the words erased still live beneath the words that appear? Can I ever deliver you this messagethis sensation? What can I offer, in lieu of words? 

By Matthew Galic

Average, Good, Love, Masterpiecethese are all words we use to try and convey our horrible tastes in films and books. The problem with these words, is that none of them work. At all. Our conception of ‘quality’ has become so skewed that nobody really knows what they are talking about, or how to explain what they feel. I believe these words are the culprits, villains who are nefariously contorting the truth in order to push their sick meaningless dystopia. 

They deserve to answer for their crimes, so let’s begin the cross-examination, shall we? 

Average –  

We claim to know what average means, but it really doesn’t mean anything. This word is implying that there is some kind of mathematical standard that all art is being held to, but if so, what is it, and who decided on it? If we don’t know, how is this word useful to describe how we feel in the slightest? 

Good – 

Good tries to trick you. Good tells you it’s a safe word to use when describing art, but it’s too indifferent. It’s not strong enough to convey any meaningful emotion on a subject, but it’s not weak enough to do the opposite. In essence, it’s another way of saying ‘average. In the past, ‘good’ was good enough, but now it feels incredibly lacklustre. 

Love – 

It’s not enough to say that a movie or book is ‘good’ or that you ‘liked it’. Those words still convey a somewhat dismissive air. You have to say that you loved something in order for people to understand what you mean. Because of this, anything that you say you don’t love is assumed to be trash, and anything you say you do love is held to impossibly high scrutinyIsn’t that lovely? 

Masterpiece – 

The cultural conception of a ‘masterpiece—an infallible work—doesn’t exist, yet that is the level that every artist is expected to reach. The myth of perfection is a plague on art and artists everywhere. When there is no such thing as a masterpiece, why should artist be striving for an impossibility? Is it fair for us to be placing such a lofty expectation on the things we enjoy? 

I’ve come to feel that we need new words to describe what we really feel about art. Words that don’t exist. Perhaps the absence of these words proves that our cultural conception of ‘quality’ needs to be heading in a different direction. We seem to be obsessed with thinking that certain things need to be better than others. 

‘Quality’ shouldn’t be a sliding scale that goes from bad to good. If we narrow ourselves into only watching or reading things that fit a pedantic criterion of ‘quality’, then we miss so many different perspectives and experiences that don’t conform to those guidelines. Once we open ourselves up to experiencing a vast array of different artmaybe one day we’ll find the right words to describe how we feel. 

By Nerissa Butt

How do you write about a word that does not exist? 


Marks on a page that make sound. 

Punctuation marks, symbol, letters and other features. 

A writer would need a good sense of motor control, coordination of hands, eyes and psychological processes. 

A dependency, written or else…read left to right, right to left, or bottom to top. 

Pictographic, hieroglyphic, or alphabetic are a writer’s main choices. 


The Outline 

Start with extracting the elementdistinctive or indispensable aspect of something abstract. 

A perceived smell, in contact with, a sensation, listened or judged. 

An elicited graphic expression, behaviour or mannerism perhaps! 

Decide on what letters it would include, and how many.  

It may articulate in traditional or contemporary way. 


A point in space and time at which a voyage, movement, or act starts or ends. 

Maybe applied from another word. 

Maybe a repeated arrangement of letters. Each letter interwoven to guide. 

Related concepts perhaps. 


In Practice 

Consider a grid like crossword puzzle to solve this conundrum. 

Try to spell it backwards and forwards to make up another new word all together. 

It might have letters that do not appear more than once. 

Or use all letters in the alphabet, but I would guess it would have to repeat some letters.  

Reflect on the outcome, would you want the word to command or be subdued? 

Maybe prompt or cue. 

Could machine learning help invent and define a word? 

An algorithm, unambiguous, well defined finite sequence. 

Letters in absolute symbiotic formation perfectly moulded into a noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, or conjunction. 

Then end with the elementsafter all what is the point of writing a word if it does not elicit a perception or response? 

By Sarah Hurst

Koi no Yokan 

When we first met, I thought you disliked me. 

You wouldn’t laugh at my jokes, or look me in the eye, or smile. 

You would leave me standing there talking to myself— 

No response. 

No reply. 

All that time I thought you found me annoying. 

Little did I know you were just happy to listen. 


I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight, 

Even though you have the prettiest eyes that remind me of Home. 

I wasn’t ready to fall in love at the time. And yet, 

I was drawn in. 


Our paths knotted together—more than once it seemed. 

Same primary school. Same hometown. Same future. 


Perhaps you could call it fate, if you believed in it. 

But knowing you, you would say it was merely a coincidence. 

I felt something more. More enticing. 

A calling, 

An urge, 

Like the hot, clammy hand of Destiny ripped me from my reality  

And placed me in front of you—nowhere to run but into your arms. 


When we first met, I was intrigued; 

Fascinated by the boy who made me feel like I couldn’t breathe, 

And yet made me believe that I could ignite flames with my words. 



You started to laugh at my jokes and spoke and replied with a smile. 

I was ready to push my limits for a guy that I barely even knew.  



Then, you welcomed me into the beautiful world that lay behind your planet Earth eyes. 

Now, with every hardship and every kiss, I think, ‘Yes, this is how it was meant to be’. 


Koi no Yokan is a Japanese phrase to describe the feeling of meeting someone for the first time and immediately knowing that you will eventually fall in love. It doesn’t necessarily mean love at first sight—not so much about physical attraction and chemistry. It’s more of a spiritual understanding; intuition. The premonition of love. 

By Vania Octaviani

I grew up hearing at least six languages spoken in my house and speaking two of them.  

My grandmother, grandfather, and father would speak to me in Mandarin, and they would converse with each other in Hokkien 

My mother would speak to me in Bahasa Indonesia as that was the only language that she spoke.  

Sometimes, I would catch the helpers in my house speaking over the phone to their family in Javanese or Sundanese, it depended on which village they came from.  

I heard words spoken in English from the films and shows that my father would buy for me.  

My house was pretty much the epitome of Indonesia—where its people spoke 300 languages. So, I had learned that usually, when you didn’t have a way to express something in your first language, you took it from your second one, and so on, and so on. When I lived in Singapore, I learned that their speech pattern also resembled multiple fabrics of dialects and languages that had been sewn together to form a large blanket—jarring but warm.  

 ‘This one/sibei shiok/like/macam/KFC/like that,’ my Singaporean boyfriend would say every time I cooked our homemade fried chicken.  

Even though I have integrated into Western culture and made English a primary spoken language, there are some Indonesian words that I wish I could just say to express myself.  

Masuk angin (Enter Wind)—a term that describes someone who is experiencing cold-like symptoms. They are believed to occur after someone is exposed to harsh weather. A myth in the medical world, yet it is widely accepted in society.  

So, how do we write about a word that doesn’t exist?  

That word is probably somewhere out there, still hanging on a native tongue, waiting for me to discover it.