KUEBIKO

Here’s a soulful Japanese word for the news-generated sadness you’re probably feeling

With tragedies and terrible news relentlessly chasing one another through the news cycle, it’s only fair to feel an increasing sense of horrified impotence towards the state of the world. The shock has turned to deep exhaustion. We used to scream, now we sigh.

The feeling has a name: kuebiko.

Kuebiko is a Japanese word that refers to the fatigue generated by senseless violence. It comes from a mythological character, Kuebiko (久延毘古)—a name coming from 崩え彦 or “disabled—or crumbling—prince,” (pdf, p.132). Kuebiko is the Shinto deity of knowledge and agriculture. He is a scarecrow and cannot can’t move, but has comprehensive awareness of the world.

In Japan, kuebiko isn’t actually used to refer to the feeling. It was imported into English and given its melancholy meaning by John Koenig, the author of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, who offers an extensive entry of the word. It has since appeared in several lists of the words the English language lacks to express certain feelings.

Given the past couple of weeks, feel free to use it soon and often.

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