I’m a sucker for a bit of a lexicon lesson (I studied linguistics at university for half a second before realising short story writing was much easier). And there is something delicious about discovering new words for happiness – in any of its forms.
Tim Lomas has launched the Positive Lexicography Project – an online glossary of untranslatable words for wonderful things. Tim, from the University of East London, scoured the internet and asked family and friends to gather a whole load of wonderful untranslatable words, and then he studied dictionaries and academic papers to define each and every one.
The result? 216 happy words from 49 different languages.
Here are some of my favourites:
sisu – Finnish – the psychological strength that allows a person to overcome extraordinary challenges
Heimat – German – deep-rooted fondness towards a place to which one has a strong feeling of belonging
mamihlapinatapei – Yagán – a look between people that expresses unspoken but mutual desire
queesting – Dutch – to allow a lover access to one’s bed for chitchat
dadirri – Ngan’gikurunggurr and Ngen’giwumirri languages of the Aboriginal peoples of the Daly River region – a deep, spiritual act of reflective and respectful listening
fēng yùn – Mandarin Chinese – personal charm and graceful bearing
ilunga -Tshiluba – being ready to forgive a first time, tolerate a second time, but never a third time
utepils – Norwegian -a beer that is enjoyed outside . . . particularly on the first hot day of the year
mbuki-mvuki – Bantu – to shed clothes to dance uninhibited
tarab – Arabic – musically induced ecstasy or enchantment
gigil – Tagalog – the irresistible urge to pinch/squeeze someone because they are loved or cherished
What do you wish there was a word for?