-ness suffix: forming nouns from adjectives, and occasionally other words, expressing: 1 state or condition, or an instance of this (happiness; a kindness). 2 something in a certain state (wilderness).” – The Oxford Canadian Dictionary

“Ness” is more useful than that. Given its ability to modify many words and turn them into adjectives, I think it can serve even as a noun. Ness as a noun would encompass several or all adjectives applied to a person, object, state, or condition.

ness noun: the overall tone or appearance of a person, object, state or condition.”

Imagine, for example, you see  a homeless person on the street. You want to describe their appearance, smell, tone of voice, style of dress, everything – you could use the word ness to encompass all of these factors. “His ness was really sour (or insert your adjective here).”

Some of you might think there are existing words that can do what ness can do. But I don’t think there are. You might use the word “aura” but aura has a more spiritual connotation than is sometimes desired. You could use “nature”, but to discuss the nature of something seems old-fashioned.

You could use a couple words  like “overall appearance”, “general idea”, or “the sum of all parts”, but these expressions are longwinded and unnecessary.

Normally I don’t make up words, or at least give much thought to the words I do make up. But ness is different. It is multipurpose.  Ness is fluid, and can apply to any situation.

Ness has been in my vocabulary for many years, though I started giving the word more attention after a conversation my brother and I had about the movie Twilight.

“The movie wasn’t very explainingful of their ness,” I said.

Now before you get high on your grammar horses, I realize “explainingful” is not, nor should ever be a real word. This sentence, albeit shameful for a 4th year Journalism student, was a valid idea, blurted out in excitement. I tried to reach for the words to say that the film did not fully explain all the different qualities that vampires possess. As far as Twilight is concerned, the Cullen family (who are vampires) have pale skin cold to the touch, they drink animals’ blood instead of humans’, they move really fast, their eyes change colour when they are hungry, and they can smell humans from a great distance.

I wanted to say that the movie did not fully explain all of these elements as thoroughly as the book. When I said “their ness”, I was referring to all these elements as a group. I did not have to say each item separately, because they all fall into the Cullens’ “ness”. You follow?

I really believe that “ness” should be updated in the Old Oxford English. Thoughts?


3 responses to “Ness

  1. I thought of “essence”, but that doesn’t work either – it sounds like something that comes out of a shampoo bottle.

    Robert Pirsig (of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” fame) used “Quality” to describe something similar to this. That’s the closest I could think of.

  2. “get high on your grammar horses?”

    haha. did you mean to say on your grammar high horse? because i dont think many sticklers get high.

  3. Ooooh look who’s on her grammar high horse!
    Mind you I bet I could name a few. Perhaps.
    PS – I like your sunglasses picture. Very fierce.

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