chont

This word has a very satisfying sound, I think. Like something that fits neatly being slotted in just right, or a nice bit of mechanics tightly machined and working to perfection. A key fitting in a lock. A catch clicking in its notch. A door closing smoothly and tightly. Or perhaps the sound of a block of cheese or soap being cut in a perfect diagonal slice. It starts with the crisp click-slide of “ch” and after a short vowel pushes the cushion of the nasal “n” to the tongue-tip stop “t.” Tidy. Complete. Satisfying.

Well, that’s what a chont is. ‘A satisfying sound’. It’s what I expect a camera shutter to have, for instance. It doesn’t have to be loud – in fact, I don’t want it to be too loud – but it should give a sense of a well-executed mechanical event. Which is why when I watch camera review videos on YouTube (as one does) I am annoyed if they do not actually click the shutter, preferably more than once. This camera will be making noise, and I want to know what noise it will be making all those times I press the button!

But, though chont certainly comes from imitation of a satisfying sound (it has a variant form chent, but chent is an insult among certain cultural groups so stick with chont), as a word meaning ‘satisfying sound’ it doesn’t refer just to ones that sound like “chont.” A car engine, for instance, can produce a chont; indeed, sports car makers put a lot of effort into getting the sound just right. Even the wails of the myriad eternally damned unleashed by your vacuum cleaner are, in their way, a chont – the truth is that vacuum cleaners are much louder than they need to be, because people don’t believe they’re effective unless they make that much noise.

And a chont can be a skeuomorph: a synthetic sound added to give the impression of a real one that is no longer actually produced. Such as when a cellphone camera, which is in reality silent, makes a loud click-whine as though it were a 1980s motor-drive SLR. Some people find that satisfying.

I don’t. I hate those fake shutter sounds! Give me a real mechanical sound of a real mechanical shutter, one that’s fired by a real spring that’s cocked by a real hand-winder. A lovely perfect bit of machinery. You might not like that, but it’s just what I want.

Which goes to show: the chont is in the ear of the beholder.

Oh, by the way, yes, this is a new old word. If you like the sound of it, you can give me credit for making it.

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