What Words Cannot Describe... Or Can They?

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By Susan "Honey" Good

In the English language, there are some things there are just not words for. Do you know what I mean, dear readers?

The feeling you get when you hold your first grandchild. A word to describe how excitement begins in the pit of your belly and bubbles up through your lungs before flinging itself out of your mouth as a gasp. Or, a word to describe the jittery feeling as you talk to someone you fancy? There are no words... or are there?

I so enjoyed this article that I recently happened upon, and so I had to share with you.

The article is about words that could describe feelings similar to the ones I've mentioned above in other languages. However, none of these words are available in English. And so, I thought, since these words describe such delicious emotions, perhaps we can adopt them?

According to Tim Lomas at the University of East London, other languages have the words to describe just such feelings. And many more. Lomas’s Positive Lexicography Project aims to capture words that describe such good feelings  found across the world, in the hope that we might start to incorporate them all into our daily lives, according to BBC. 

I've included Lomas's lexicon, directly from BBC, below.  

Many of the terms referred to highly specific positive feelings, which often depend on very particular circumstances:

  • Desbundar (Portuguese) – to shed one’s inhibitions in having fun
  • Tarab (Arabic) – a musically induced state of ecstasy or enchantment
  • Shinrin-yoku (Japanese) – the relaxation gained from bathing in the forest, figuratively or literally
  • Gigil (Tagalog) – the irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze someone because they are loved or cherished
  • Yuan bei (Chinese) – a sense of complete and perfect accomplishment
  • Iktsuarpok (Inuit) – the anticipation one feels when waiting for someone, whereby one keeps going outside to check if they have arrived

But others represented more complex and bittersweet experiences, which could be crucial to our growth and overall flourishing. 

  • Natsukashii (Japanese) – a nostalgic longing for the past, with happiness for the fond memory, yet sadness that it is no longer
  • Wabi-sabi (Japanese) – a “dark, desolate sublimity” centred on transience and imperfection in beauty
  • Saudade (Portuguese) – a melancholic longing or nostalgia for a person, place or thing that is far away either spatially or in time – a vague, dreaming wistfulness for phenomena that may not even exist
  • Sehnsucht (German) – “life-longings”, an intense desire for alternative states and realisations of life, even if they are unattainable

In addition to these emotions, Lomas’s lexicography also charted the personal characteristics and behaviours that might determine our long-term well-being and the ways we interact with other people.

  • Dadirri (Australian aboriginal) term – a deep, spiritual act of reflective and respectful listening
  • Pihentagyú (Hungarian) – literally meaning “with a relaxed brain”, it describes quick-witted people who can come up with sophisticated jokes or solutions
  • Desenrascanço(Portuguese) – to artfully disentangle oneself from a troublesome situation
  • Sukha (Sanskrit) – genuine lasting happiness independent of circumstances
  • Orenda (Huron) – the power of the human will to change the world in the face of powerful forces such as fate.

I wish each and every one of you Sukha! What do you wish?  

Pictured above: Me, enjoying a little "uitwaaien." Know what I mean :-)