What's a noun that means "something not valued until missing"?
December 31, 2006 11:15 AM   Subscribe

Is there a word for a thing that — until it is missing — is not fully valued, but that — once gone — is seen to be invaluable?

Specifically, I'm looking for a noun, not an adjective. I'm thinking of things like water, or oxygen, or innocence: they're precious, but you don't realize their worth until they're gone. What would they be considered?

A short, one-word noun would be better than a complex or otherwise poetic string ("a pearl of great price" would be utterly ridiculous). A good test for the word would be "could this word be the name of a web-based application?" (odd, I know).

English is ideal, other languages are great, too.
posted by Alt F4 to Writing & Language (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm searching and the only things I can find are adjectives.
The closest I can get to what you want is "presupposition."

Try the Reverse Dictionary, perhaps you'll have better luck than me with it.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 11:38 AM on December 31, 2006

Nostalgia-bait? :)
posted by LeisureGuy at 11:44 AM on December 31, 2006

The human condition?
posted by found missing at 11:45 AM on December 31, 2006 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Something that is taken for granted? Underappreciated?
posted by porpoise at 11:50 AM on December 31, 2006

I'm tempted to suggest "Paved Paradise," due to, you know, Joni Mitchell. Probably copyright-encumbered, though, so no good for a web app.
posted by Alterscape at 11:57 AM on December 31, 2006

"Taken for granted" is probably the closest idea in English, which porpoise mentions above.
posted by Malor at 12:06 PM on December 31, 2006

posted by iurodivii at 12:12 PM on December 31, 2006

I'd say:
posted by nj_subgenius at 12:34 PM on December 31, 2006

"Lost tooth"?

Two words, I know, but simple ones, and they seem to fit the concept if I am reading your question correctly. (Or you could go with the equivalent one word adjective edentulous: having lost teeth .)
posted by John Smallberries at 12:39 PM on December 31, 2006

I think I need to bow to GW's prescient malaproprismic wisdom here and suggested "misunderestimated." That's a verb, of course, but it would work as a noun simply by slapping "the" in front of it (as with "the departed").
posted by adamrice at 12:58 PM on December 31, 2006

err suggested > suggest.
posted by adamrice at 12:59 PM on December 31, 2006

don't feel constrained by the dictionary, neologisms come from smart writers looking for something in situations just like this. revaluelostie?
posted by bruce at 1:19 PM on December 31, 2006

If you have to settle for a phrase, perhaps King Richard's horse might do, as in Shakespeare's line from Richard III.: 'A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!'
posted by misteraitch at 1:33 PM on December 31, 2006

"Water". Tagline: "You don't miss your water 'til your well runs dry".
posted by timeistight at 1:50 PM on December 31, 2006

Perfect 20/20 hindsight.
posted by toucano at 3:13 PM on December 31, 2006

Response by poster: Hmmm ...

Through CitrusFreak12's Reverse Dictionary link and the subsequent "Grandiloquent Dictionary", I've gotten "opsimath" derived from the Greek for late (opsi) and learning (math). That's not quite it (it's conventionally "someone who begins learning late in life"), but maybe there's something down that path.

There's also "afterwise," but, again, that's an adjective. And it's describing the agent (you are "afterwise" after the water / oxygen / etc. is gone), not the article (the water / oxygen / etc.) itself.

Suggestions are still welcome.
posted by Alt F4 at 3:35 PM on December 31, 2006

"Bewillig nehmen" is German for "take for granted".

How about the feminine noun eine Bewilligenehmung, or "a thing taken for granted"?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:22 PM on December 31, 2006

Best answer: Hmm, on second thought, I am reminded of Prometheus' brother, Epimetheus, who symbolizes hindsight. This, of course, is not the same as the object of regretful hindsight, but might be a good jumping-off point for a neologism like "epimetheum."
posted by adamrice at 6:35 PM on December 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

For English language variations, you really can't beat porpoise's underappreciated. It's the only single word I can think of that totally sums up the "don't know what you got till you ain't got it" aspect of your question.

Back when I still did rock-climbing and the like, we had a phrase that sort of summed this concept up: "Never make a tool that you can't substitute, duplicate, or replace critical to the success of the completion of your task."
posted by quin at 8:09 PM on December 31, 2006

Since you want one word, AltF4, German to the rescue: the wonderfully named Sandwichkind.
posted by rob511 at 9:26 PM on December 31, 2006

posted by baylink at 10:13 PM on December 31, 2006

Best answer: i like adamrice's epimetheum.
the ultimate lost value in language that i know of is eden. you might try edenum. it's shorter than my earlier revalulostie.
posted by bruce at 12:07 AM on January 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: potrzebie?

It's Polish for "want," but also has nice allusions to Mad Magazine and a bit of geek cred (here) which might make it a good Web name.

The description in the link doesn't do the word justice for how it was explained to me. It was described as "suffering want," or a condition of longing for something that may be unattainable (or lost.)
posted by printdevil at 2:12 PM on January 1, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, all.

porpoise's "underappreciated" does get at the idea. Not as snappy as I'd hoped we'd see, but it does answer the question, so ... a best answer for you!

bruce's suggestion of a neologism was great, and edenum (or, as an alternate, edenium) is a great word. It won't work for my purposes, but is really great. Best answer for you!

adamrice, big ups for the classical reference, and for the neolog (or does it have to be "neologism"?) epimetheum. Best answer for you!

And, finally, printdevil, for your deep knowledge of Mad and for preparing me (I'm sure) for a Baader Meinhof at some point soon, a best answer for you!

For the curious: I do have a new web app I'm thinking about, but I'm trying to get some traction on branding. Thanks for your help with this exercise. If anything ever happens with it, I'll post it to Projects and give you all free accounts. Thanks again!

If anybody has follow-up ideas, please feel free to tack them on here.
posted by Alt F4 at 6:07 PM on January 1, 2007

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