The Sunday Magazine

Feeling crambazzled? A linguist shares words from the past that are fitting for 2023

You might not know you are feeling crambazzled or that you have a case of the mubble-fubbles, but self-described linguistic magpie Susie Dent says putting a word to your feelings will actually help.

Putting a word to a specific feeling can give you power over it, says lexicographer Susie Dent

Man sitting at library table, scratching head, with large book open in front of him.
A man reads a book in this 1950s file photo. A lexicographer explains that learning words from the past can help us manage our emotions now. (H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images)

You might not know you are feeling crambazzled or that you have a case of the mubble-fubbles, but self-described linguistic magpie Susie Dent says putting a word to your feelings will actually help. 

"The more vocabulary we have at our fingertips to articulate how we feel, the better we're able to manage our emotions," Dent told Piya Chattopadhyay on The Sunday Magazine

Digging through language from the past, and some from other tongues, U.K. lexicographer Dent has unearthed some words to help describe some of what vexes us in 2023. 

Dent is the author of Word Perfect and An Emotional Dictionary, as well as a regular on British television. She's known for appearing on the Channel 4 game show Countdown and 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown with comedian Jimmy Carr.

Dent says learning some of these uncommon words can be helpful because it reminds people that others feel the same thing at times, so much so that there's a word for it. 

And Dent isn't the only one advocating for an expanded vocabulary in this new year. Jane Solomon, lexicographer from Oakland, Calif., and author of The Dictionary of Difficult Words, says learning a funny sounding word for a tough feeling can also help.

"Sometimes taking something that can be pretty bleak and giving it a more comical word… it makes you laugh, it takes you out of that really really dark feeling for a moment," said Solomon. 

A woman standing in front of bushes smiling with her arms crossed. Next to that image is the cover of her book.
Susie Dent is the author of An Emotional Dictionary. (Stewart Williams)

"That's the effect that words have, to have a funny word to describe a sad feeling is a special thing because it completely reframes a sad feeling."

So if you've got the mubble-fubbles, or perhaps yearning for some snerdling, these words are for you. 

L'appel du vide

You may not have heard the term l'appel du vide before, but it's possible you've still felt it. It's a French phrase that means, "the call of the void."

"It's a really strange emotion … If you've ever sort of stood at the top of a cliff and looked down and thought, I could actually jump off this … You don't want to and you know you won't do it. But it's that realization that you have the capacity to do it," said Dent. 

It sounds dark, but Dent says, it's actually positive. 

"It's a reaffirmation of the desire to live, by considering the desire not to live … But so many people have said to me, 'I had no idea that other people felt this and that there is a word for it, too.'"

Hiding in your hibernacle 

Dent says there are all sorts of words that relate to hiding under the covers, which isn't an uncommon feeling during the cold and dark days of January and February. And those dark days may sometimes make it feel physically impossible to get out of bed, a term known as dysania.

But Dent says there's a flip to that negative feeling, by looking at some of the positives of staying in bed. 

There are many different words in historical dictionaries for snuggling, such as snerdling and snuzzling, all of course in your hibernacle, which is a winter retreat or a place where an animal, or human, hibernates. Who wouldn't want some snerdles in a hibernacle?

If you party too much in 2023, you may end up feeling crambazzled. (Anthony Mooney/Shutterstock)


There are lots of weird and wacky words for some specific feelings, such as frobly-mobly, which really just means you're feeling a bit meh, or the similar term mubble-fubbles, which means you're feeling melancholy.

During the pandemic, Dent says she benefited from learning of the word lonesome-fret, which is the feeling of uneasiness from not seeing people you love.

"We didn't quite know because we've not experienced this before and kept saying unprecedented. 'This is all unprecedented.' It turns out actually there is comfort in the past because clearly people have been feeling similar emotions before," said Dent.

Feeling crambazzled

But it's not all doom and gloom. People have since been able to reunite, attend live events, and enjoy partying together. Dent says the French have a word for the joy of reuniting, retrouvailles

In 2023, she hopes to feel some respair, or fresh hope. 

"Every new year. I think surely this is the time for respair because it's not been a happy place for so long," said Dent. 

But beware not to bask too much in that respair, now that you're reunited with your friends. Otherwise you might look in the mirror and find yourself a bit crambazzled, which is feeling prematurely aged because of excessive partying. 

WATCH | Adding Canadian words to the dictionary:

Meet the Ontario linguist bringing Canadian English to the Oxford Dictionary

1 year ago
Duration 2:05
University of Toronto linguistics professor Sali Tagliamonte is so committed to preserving Canadian English, she's taken it upon herself to send in submissions to the Oxford English Dictionary.


Philip Drost is a journalist with the CBC. You can reach him on Twitter @phildrost or by email at

Produced by Sarah-Joyce Battersby

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