Three neologisms I encountered while dreaming

My dreams tend to be extremely vivid, featuring not only detailed visual scenes, but — owing to the fact that I’m a predominantly verbal thinker — an unusually prominent focus on language (I’m apparently exempt, for example, from the common saying that you can’t read while dreaming).

The most striking example of this comes from those instances, not uncommon, in which I wake up having learned an entirely new word — provided to me, as though miraculously, from the creative and mystical process of the dreamwork. Here are three of such words I’ve encountered in the past few months.


(noun) A sense of dignity provided by autonomy and self-determination of life outcomes

Content of the dream: I’m having a conversation with my grandma and sister. My grandma mentions the importance of ikhtislas, an Arabic word I don’t recognize, which she translates for me in English as: “You scratch my back, I scratch yours — tit for tat”.

Context of the dream: The day prior to this dream, I was drinking coffee with my cousin and her mom, chatting about career opportunities. When I asked my cousin about her ideas for the future, she gave me a perfunctory statement about the value of medicine, but soon started expressing interests in other fields. For each of these professions, however — even the prestigious and highly respectible ones — her mom gave a stern and unremitting rebuttal in an attempt to keep her focused on medicine. Sidestepping the issue a bit, I asked my cousin what specialty of medicine she would like to pursue, and to my disappointment, found that here too her mom couldn’t help but interjecting with strong opinions.

Notes on the neologism: The Arabic word for specialty is ikhtisas. During the conversation I had the previous day, this concept represented the wide variety of options available to my cousin, which I felt were being unrightfully stifled by her mother. At the time I felt strongly that, similar to my own upbringing, her mother’s insistence on a narrow path was in some sense burdening her or even spoiling her innocence.

The Arabic word for purity is ikhlas. This neologism, then, appears to be a combination of these two concepts, specialty and purity, which was formed out of anxiety over what I perceived to be a harmful dynamic between my cousin and her mom. My sister’s presence in the dream may be related to the fact that the Arabic word for ‘my sister’ is ikhti, which reveals the remarkably multifacted nature of this single word.

As for why the term would be explained by my grandma as a mutual back-scratching or tit for tat, I can only offer the interpretation that in witnessing what my cousin was going through, I perceived some glimmer of my own past experience, and that this sense of reciprocity is what was being captured by my grandma’s translation.


(verb) To take up one’s own goals and life-projects

Content of the dream: I’m browsing an online forum and come across a man’s advertisement for an anonymous sexual encounter. As part of his self-description, I read the word ikteggen. I keep scrolling down and find other posts, similar to those I’d find on Tumblr.

Context of the dream: A theme which I had been considering in the week leading up to this dream, and which was reinforced by certain psychoanalytic readings, is that a better understanding of one’s sexuality allows for better life-adjustment. I also spend about an hour on Tumblr every day.

Notes on the neologism: I was already aware, during my experience of the dream, as to the definition of this word, which I recognized as being Danish. The prefix ‘ik’ I understood to mean ‘I’, owing to my cursory knowledge of German, and ‘teggen’ I understood to mean ‘to take’. As a combination of these words, then, I translated ikteggen as ‘self-taking-up’, and in the context of the dream, I believed that the man was either striving to be ‘taken up’ with himself, or was seeking a partner who was ‘taken up’.

When I woke up, I was curious as to whether this word exists in Danish, perhaps having been subliminally taken up by me when reading some text of Sooren Kierkegaard, but a Google search revealed it to be a hapax legomenon.

Asr al-sudur

(noun) The anxiety caused by being ignored or neglected

Content of the dream: I saw a man struggling on his back, grappling with another man. At the same time a portion of the Quran was being recited which I didn’t recognize, the only words of which I remembered on waking was asr al-sudur, which translates to ‘pressing of the chest’.

Context of the dream: In the weeks leading up to this dream, I had been experiencing episodes of chest pain which were associated with anxiety. The day before the dream, I had a conversation with a friend in which I made a suggestion for a mutual activity, but she responded by saying ‘I don’t know how focused I would be [during that activity], maybe if I didn’t have anything super pressing’, which I immediately interpreted, somewhat pessimistically, as signaling her reluctance towards the idea. Masking my upset feelings with a cheap pun, I responded that as long as she wasn’t juicing or making a smoothie, we should be fine.

Meaning of the neologism: The connection with the Quran is made clearer when we consider that the 94th chapter describes the easing of hardship on the prophet as follows: “Have we not expanded your chest / And removed from you the burden / That weighed on your back?”. This somatic metaphor, then, was a way of expressing my upset feelings about what I perceived to be a rejection.

The position of the man in the dream resembled that of a person in guard in jiu jitsu being ‘smashed’ by their opponent. Similarly, the Arabic word asrindicates squeezing: a ma’sarani, which is derived from this word, means ‘juice-maker’. These concepts come together in the physical experience of feeling ‘weighed down’, again reiterated in the 94th chapter of the Quran.




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Farid Alsabeh

Farid Alsabeh

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