The English aren’t very good at emotions – but contrary to the more received wisdom, it may not be all about that stiff upper lip and keeping up appearances, it may actually be an inherent problem with the language.
Now we all know the English language is a rich and complex beast – first spoken in early medieval England, it’s now the world’s third most common native language, after Mandarin and Spanish, and the most widely learned second language – but it’s not quite as comprehensive as it could be though, particularly when it comes to words that convey emotions and feelings.
So if you want to get more in touch with your emotions and the more ethereal things in life, here are some words you really need to know…
The Lexicon of love
There’s no doubt that English is a comprehensive tongue, but it doesn’t quite cut it in all areas, and to highlight this Tim Lomas, a lecturer in psychology at the University of East London, has compiled a list of those things in life that are missing from our native language but perfectly projected by others.
Lomas discovered 216 of what he terms ‘untranslatable’ words and published them in the Journal of Positive Psychology in a bid to ‘help expand the emotional vocabulary of English speakers [and] provide a window onto cultural differences in constructions of well-being’.
- Að jenna (Icelandic) – ability or willingness to persevere through tasks that are hard or boring.
- Ah-un (阿吽) (Japanese) – unspoken communication between close friends.
- Cwtch (Welsh) – to hug, a safe welcoming place.
- Desbundar (Portuguese) – shedding one’s inhibitions in having fun.
- Dor (Romanian) – longing for a person, place, or thing that is out of reach and you love very much.
- Flâner (French) – leisurely strolling the streets.
- Fernweh (German) – the ‘call of faraway places,’ homesickness for the unknown.
- Gökotta (Swedish) – waking up early to hear the first birds sing.
- Hiraeth (Welsh) – longing for one’s homeland, with nostalgia and wistfulness.
- Iktsuarpok (Inuit) – anticipation one feels when waiting for someone, and keeps checking if they’re arriving.
- Koromebi (木漏れ日) (Japanese) – sunlight filtering through leaves.
- Listopad (листопад) (Russian) – falling leaves.
- Mangata (Swedish) – the glimmering that moonlight makes on water.
- Mbuki-mvuki (Bantu) – to shed clothes to dance uninhibited.
- Nakama (仲間) (Japanese) – deep platonic love for a friend.
- Peiskos (Norwegian) – sitting in front of a crackling fireplace enjoying the warmth.
- Philotimo (φιλότιμο) (Greek) – ‘friend-honour,’ respecting and honouring friends.
- Santosha (संतोष) (Sanskrit) – contentment arising from personal interaction.
- Schnapsidee (German) – an ingenious plan hatched while drunk.
- Seijaku (静寂) (Japanese) – serenity in the midst of activity or chaos.
- Sólarfrí (Icelandic) (noun) – sun holiday, i.e., when workers are granted unexpected time off to enjoy a particularly sunny/warm day.
- Suaimhneas croi (Gaelic) – happiness on finishing a task.
- Tarab (Arabic) – musically-induced ecstasy or enchantment.
- Thróisma (θρόισμα) (Greek) – sound of wind rustling through trees.
- Trpti (Sanskrit) – satisfaction of sensual pleasures.
- Uitwaaien (Dutch) – walking in the wind for fun or exercise.
- Ullassa (उल्लास) (Sanskrit) – feelings of pleasantness associated with natural beauty.
- Utepils (Norwegian) – drinking beer outside on a hot day.
- Vacilando (Spanish) – wandering without concern for the destination.