There, I’ve said it. First time on the web. At least, when I googled it a couple of minutes ago there were no hits.—No hits?!—This has been my favourite word of all times for some time now. My favourite word isn’t on the web? Crazy.
So what does “ontoleptic” mean, I hear you say.—Let’s look it up. (You can probably find it in The Dictionary of Fictionary Words… Let’s see… Ah! Here it is!)
of, or relating to, or characteristic of, a confusion in levels of reality or existance
Why do I like this word? Well…it’s unusal. I like unusual words, unusual language. (Maybe that’s why my other web page is on Klingon?) But also, “ontoleptic” is a useful word, descriptive—not least—of some of my common morning thoughts: “Am I still in bed sleeping, dreaming of going to work?—Or am I actually on my way to work, dreaming about sleeping?”
The most common ontoleptic story involves some confusion as to in which reality it takes place at a given moment (eXistenZ), or it is discovered that the actual reality turns out to be a different sort of place than was previusly believed (The Thirteenth Floor). My favourite on this theme is probably eXistenZ—no matter how meticulously one follows how the plot jumps back and forth between the levels of realities there just is no way to anticipate that! (Or maybe I was just naïve when I watched it for the first time?) This one is also very clear-cut when it comes to ontoleptic movies. If there ever is a such a category of movies, then eXistenZ belongs to it, no doubt about that.
There is also another kind of ontoleptic movies, one of a more personal kind, in which a person has doubts about his or her reality or existance but in which the reality itself seem constant for most of the people. Stranger Than Fiction and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind belongs to this category. And maybe even Groundhog Day?
Let me give you a little list of movies (and other stories) to help further clarify the idea of ontolepsia:
|1968||Rosencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead||Both a play and a movie.|
|1987||The New York Trilogy||By Paul Auster.|
|1990||Star Trek TNG: “Remember Me”|
|1997||The Game||Michael Douglas (not Neil Strauss).|
|1998||Dark City||Stylish settings, but no favourite of mine.|
|1999||Being John Malkovich|
|1999||Matrix||First movie was a bit ontoleptic to start off with, then not so much.|
|1999||The Thirteenth Floor|
|2001||Impostor||Hey, is it ontoleptic to doubt the existance of oneself?|
|2001||Avalon||The Japanese-Polish movie, not the Arthur-saga-thingy.|
|2002||Buffy Episode: “Normal Again”|
|2004||Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind|
|2004||Primer||Counting timelines as realities.|
|2006||Science of Sleep|
|2006||Stranger Than Fiction|
…And there are probably a thousand more. If you have any you wish to have included here, you can send an email to me.
I didn’t come up with the word myself, but I’m no longer sure who gave it to me. The etymology of it, however, isn’t that difficult to see:
Since this word isn't widely recognized (or googlable) yet, here are some related words to catch those googlings:
Ontolepsia (being in an ontoleptic state).
And lastly the Swedish versions of the words: Ontoleptisk, ontolepsi, and the related word “verklighetsläckage” (“seepage of realities”).
Byin Uppsala 2009–2015 (License: CC BY–SA)