I read recently about “loanwords”. These are words that English has “borrowed” mostly because there’s simply no English equivalent that can do such a beautiful, succinct, piquant job.
What I liked in the article (a Scientific American read) was the explanation for why we get such a lovely feeling – a thrill – from stumbling upon loanwords.
Do you know what I mean?
I’ve written about hygge which is a Danish word kind of meaning “cosiness”. But as a Dane will tell you…it means so much more. For me, this word is also something you consciously strive for. It’s about connecting in a cosy, elegant, unfussy way. It’s about weaving friendship and intimacy with ease.
I’ve written about taking a flanerie, which is to take a wander around a city just to look and smell and absorb.
I’ve written about sookshma.
I’ve also written about the beauty of wabi sabi.
Apparently this fondness for untranslatable words stems from the awareness that a phenomenon, a thing, a feeling, something on this overly researched planet, has been overlooked by us. How wonderfully mysterious.
Yeah, I get this. We veer toward oddness, imperfections, gaps, unknowns, as we once did flat horizons.
Of course, on the surface, we rail against the uncertainty and “missingness” inherent in many things in life. But ultimately it is the discord in life that brings us richness and satisfaction. The stuff we truly want.
I think the onomatopoeic nature of many of these words is also incredibly satisfying.
Other exciting loanwords? The German word Sehnsucht, which “evokes an ambivalent, bittersweet sense of ‘life-longings’.” And Treppenwitz, which means “staircase wit”, which is a bit like l’esprit d’escalier, which sums up the really good, witty words that come to you after you need it, namely, as you leave the joint by the stairs.
Any more you guys get excited by?