I've been laying on the couch for a few days, which is the sort of thing that gets one thinking - primarily because there's nothing else to do when you're strapped to the couch by illness. I basically never sit still, and I try not to think too hard most of the time, so this has not been a super pleasant experience for me. My first train of thought was how terrible locked-in syndrome would be, or really any such disorder that leaves ones body incapacitated yet ones mind free to wander. I even - very briefly - stuck the pinkie toe of human experience into the fever-induced waters of self pity and imagined a flicker of a parallel between my pneumonia-stricken self and Stephen Hawking and his ALS. (Mr. Hawking, if you are reading this, please forgive me. Fever; NyQuil; shit happens sometimes.)
After a read through my Facebook feed and a stop over at Neatorama, my next major train of thought was - well, it was more like a stillness meditation... on cold symptoms. We've all heard the Inuit have [insert large number here] of terms for ice and snow, so why not tidy terms that encompass all the weird things that happen to your body when you have a cold? Why does one have to say, "Aw, I could totally breathe out of one nostril for a second there then they both plugged up again!" Or, "The entire inside of my head feels like it's stuffed full of wool and chili powder and nasty little elves pounding on anvils." That's just unwieldy. Everyone has had these same experiences, and everyone both wants to share their own symptoms in gruesome detail and not hear about anyone else's gruesome details. Why not have a single term? You could groan, "Ugh, loderf!" and your partner would know without having to be explicitly told that, say, you experienced a sudden rush of nasal drainage that woke you up just as it was leaking onto your pillow. "Fuuuuuck.... requat...." could mean you're hacking up balls of green phlegm. "Klapparf" could indicate that sensation of having your sinuses solidify; "naubd" the experience of tears shooting out of your tear ducts from blowing your nose too hard; "adanc" the feeling of razor blades in your throat when swallowing. I would particularly appreciate a term for splitting your lip from sneezing - hygdal? I really hate hygdal.
Or we could work backwards, a la Dan Savage, and pick an especially distasteful public figure to whose name could be assigned the definition for a similarly nasty cold symptom. (I don't want to tread too closely to Santorum here, but could we think
of anyone whose name deserves to be associated with
Wouldn't this approach as a whole make it so much easier to convey one's misery? It would put the less verbose among us on a level playing field for documenting their symptoms, and it would also make describing your state to the doctor *so* much less whingey - I just hate going in there and invariably sounding like a four-year-old: My head hurts and my throat hurts and I want my mommy. You could sound so definitive instead: Yes, ma'am, I have been experiencing regular klapparf, requat, claub and a bit of numpasta as well. I think you'll agree it's pretty serious.
(I said that in a radio announcer voice in my head, but you could use your regular outside voice when talking with your doctor.)
I hope I help each of you pass a bit of time during your next cold, thinking of distinct symptoms that deserve their own name. Perhaps when we're done our good work here we can branch out into other common pathologies.