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May I have a word: The limits of our resolve

New year, new you? A word for resolutions and hopes that don’t make it to Groundhog Day.

Viacheslav Yakobchuk/Adobe

Last time, the challenge was to come up with a name for the “disappointing, empty feeling” of blowing most or all of your New Year’s resolutions by Groundhog Day — which will soon be upon us.

Ed De Vos, of West Newton, coined resillusion, “a noun that embraces the often ephemeral quality of our resolve,” and provided this example of the word in use: “Amidst the dark days of winter, the New Year’s resillusions evaporated in the twilight.”

Marjory Wunsch, of Cambridge, came up with disaspirations — which immediately inspired me to invent disasterations for resolutions that go disastrously wrong.

Liz Kelley, of Orleans, told me that by Groundhog Day she tends “to experience ‘resolve dissolve,’ resulting in a sad and sorry state of New Year’s surrendolution.”


Diane Juknavorian proposed regretalutions and added: “I don’t get why people wait for Jan. 1 to make resolutions.”

Well, Diane, psychologists have studied New Year’s resolutions a lot, because they’re a way to understand what helps people make positive changes in themselves.

I suppose it’s unkind of me to be telling you this now, nearly a month after New Year’s, but one study did find that people who made common New Year’s resolutions (to lose weight, to get more exercise, etc.) were 10 times as likely to achieve their goals as were people who set themselves similar goals at other times of the year.

Back to business: Inasmuch as Naomi Angoff Chedd, of Brookline; Susan Erickson, of Maynard; Larry Kerpelman, of Acton; Jim Little, of East Sandwich; and Karen Lynch, of Winchester, all proposed dissolutions, I’m hereby creating a people’s choice award to bestow upon this word.

Naomi, a steadfast correspondent of mine, also recommended that we ask ourselves this: “What New Year’s resolution do you have a reasonably good chance of keeping?”


She continued: “Here’s what I mean: I was in a far-away country several months ago, glancing at a lunch menu in a lovely cafe. I came across this offering: stewed donkey. Donkey!! So, at midnight on Dec. 31, 2023, I vowed that I would not eat any donkey for the entire year. It’s almost February, and I’m doing really well. Really well.”

Thanks, Naomi! That’s worth keeping in mind.

By now you’ve probably forgotten (I had) that the challenge word requested was meant to describe a feeling of disappointment and emptiness. But very few of the coinages I received seemed up to this task. So when Marc McGarry, of Newton Highlands, submitted questfallen, I knew I’d found a winner. Nicely done, Marc! You win bragging rights.

Now Lisa Rucinski, of Newton, writes: “I love your column. Oops — I’d like a word for the kind of love that isn’t the LOVE that we feel for our family and best friends but the kind we feel for things we say we love, like clothes, food, and newspaper columns. My adult kids are so precious to me, and the love I feel for them so intense, that it seems disgraceful that we use the same word to refer to material objects. I hope you and your wise community can help.”

Send your suggestions for Lisa’s word to me at Barbara.Wallraff@globe.com by noon on Groundhog Day(!), Friday, Feb. 2, and kindly tell me where you live. Responses may be edited. And please keep in mind that meanings in search of words are always welcome.


Barbara Wallraff is a writer and editor in Cambridge.