Monday, December 29, 2014


I've heard that depending on the need languages develop nuances to help us communicate better.  In Ohio just the word snow will mostly suffice for the winter precipitation we get.  Sometimes its sleet or freezing rain, but mostly its snow.  Wet snow, dry snow, powder but basically its all variations on the same theme.  Maybe we just don't get enough snow to really worry about the lack of flair this limited vocabulary illustrates. Its been suggested that the Inuit use upwards of 50-100 terms, Inuit Words for Snow and Ice.  A lot of people think this is just a trope. It can be hard to explain most of this terminology since our own languages prevents us from fully understand the differences between pirtuk 'blizzard, snowstorm' and pirrelvag- 'to blizzard severely.'  Beyond snow there's also 12 Wonderfully Quirky Words with No English Equivalent. Fisselig is my favorite. 
This German adjective means "flustered to the point of incompetence." It's different from English words like jittery, Rheingold says, because "it conveys a temporary state of inexactitude and sloppiness that is elicited by another person's nagging."
Where am I going with this awfully big tangent?  I have a point, I promise. I really like words.  I like new words and better words.  I hate when I'm thinking or feeling something that I just cannot describe to my own satisfaction.  I feel there is no way to express myself accurately. You'll notice I say "I mean" a lot.  Its a habit born of the frustration of not being able to communicate effectively.  

Hiraeth is Welsh , pronounced [hɨraɪ̯θ]
I've been home for a month now and I have this strange sensation.  I'm not homeless since I have a home. However I still find myself thinking about where I am and how I got here.  I think about where I was and why I left. I wonder why lives in my apartment in Franklin and who lives in my apartment in Doha.  Neither place is my home anymore, each had issues like a toilet that leaked or lightbulbs that seemed  permanently burnt  out. Yet I think of them wistfully as if they no longer exist. Oddly I don't know that I would or could go back to either of them. I don't think they would feel like my own spaces if I did. Until recently I didn't have word for this peculiar absence.  How can you miss what was never really yours? How can you miss what you don't want back? Is this hiraeth, an amplified sense of sentiment? Maybe Hiraeth (Welsh), originated in the same manner as Saudade (Portuguese), Morrina (Spanish- Galacian) and Dor (Romanian) as each can be traced, at least vaguely, back to the specific loss of a homeland. Hiraeth can be specifically used to mean you miss Wales.

Since I have a degree in English I think I'm well qualified to create some new words to define things in a more exacting manner. I love the word 'horrocious', its a blend of horrendous and atrocious and I like to use it when something unspeakably gross happens.  It hasn't quite caught on yet. 

I'd love a words for the following situations :

Awestruck at the Aquarium
  • When you are hungry but nothing looks good so you just don't eat
  • When you spend the whole day deciding what to do but never actually do anything
  • Happy crying
  • the sensation of the pressure changing almost imperceptibly when someone opens a door
  • delighting in something that should be scary and still sort of is but you like it, like thunderstorms 
  • when you are cold but sweaty at the same time

I think if we had more of the right words to use we wouldn't misuse some many other words like awesome or magic.  Awe is a profound state of nearly overwhelming emotion, your hamburger probably isn't awesome.  It doesn't make much sense the way we use wonderful either.  Are you actually filled with wonder? Magic is a delightful and creative art that influences the way we perceive and understand the world; yet people use magic to describe sporting events.  Save your words, use them correctly and people will understand you better.  

If you are truly speechless, its ok to just stop talking. 


No comments:

Post a Comment