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  • Arts & Culture
  • Issue 42

Word: Hyperobject

A word for things too huge to name.
Words by Daphnée Denis. Artwork by Tara Donovan. Photograph by Ruth Clark. Courtesy of Jupiter Artland.

A word for things too huge to name.
Words by Daphnée Denis. Artwork by Tara Donovan. Photograph by Ruth Clark. Courtesy of Jupiter Artland.

Etymology: The term “hyperobject” was coined by environmental philosopher Timothy Morton in 2008 with the goal of gifting humans a word to describe things that are within our understanding but beyond our immediate grasp. Because we tend to think of objects as items we can fit within our field of vision, Morton added the prefix “hyper,” which means “over” or “beyond” in Greek, suggesting excess or exaggeration. We can conceptualize hyperobjects, but we cannot see them as a whole.

Meaning: Some things are so vast that we will never witness them fully: global warming, black holes, all the Styrofoam cups in the world, ever. You don’t know their exact number, but you know that number is finite and that they’re everywhere. You may have googled how long it takes for Styrofoam to decompose (500 years). Perhaps you already suspected it, but now you know for sure: Those flimsy cups will outlive you by centuries. Your coffee-to-go is now tied

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This story is from Kinfolk Issue Forty-Two

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