I came across an interesting word in Don DeLillo’s novel Falling Man (Picador, 2007). It appears in the middle of a conversation between an estranged couple, here discussing their son:
‘We talked about it,’ Keith said. ‘But only once.’
‘What did he say?’
‘Not much. And neither did I.’
‘They’re searching the skies.’
‘That’s right,’ he said.
She knew there was something she’d wanted to say all along and it finally seeped into wordable awareness.
‘Has he said anything about this man Bill Lawton?
‘Just once. He wasn’t supposed to tell anyone.’
‘Their mother mentioned this name. I keep forgetting to tell you. First I forget the name. I forget the easy names. Then, when I remember, you’re never around to tell.’
Seeped into wordable awareness is a lovely phrase, and wordable is a curiously rare word, given its straightforward morphology and transparent meaning. It has virtually no presence in large language corpora:
Of the 15 hits on iWeb, a giant corpus of 14 billion words from 22 million web pages, 14 refer to an app name; the sole applicable example is from an OED list of new entries in September 2008. The OED defines wordable simply as ‘capable of being expressed in words’ and dates it to 1890, in the Bismarck Tribune of North Dakota:
The ‘gossip’ is obliged to wait quite a little while before said gossip can form any wordable thing out of the jumble of syllables muttered rapidly by the first gossip.
It is this want that sends our imagination out in search of ideas not yet wordable.
The line has a poetic quality apparent also in DeLillo’s later description of words as ‘airstreams of shapeless breath, bodies speaking’.
The only other popular dictionaries to define wordable are Wiktionary and the Urban Dictionary. The associated noun wordability is rarer still, especially outside of proper-noun use. Both, predictably, get red squiggles by default in MS Word and WordPress, as does wordable‘s antonym unwordable.
Unwordable, funnily enough, has been around since ~1660, seeming to appear mainly in religious contexts: a synonym of ineffable. It also has enough contemporary presence to appear in Merriam-Webster, which defines it succinctly as ‘inexpressible in words’.
Maybe you’ll find use for these wordable items.