“Untranslatable” Words from other Cultures

The relationship between words and their meaning is a fascinating one, and linguists have spent countless years deconstructing it,  trying to figure out why there are so many feelings and ideas that we cannot even put words to, and that our languages cannot identify. This post is from Ella Frances Sanders, writer and illustrator.

Somehow narrowing it down to just a handful, we’ve illustrated some of these wonderful, elusive, words, which have no single word within the English language that could be considered a direct translation. We hope that you enjoy recognizing a feeling or two of your own among them.

1. German: Waldeinsamkeit

A feeling of solitude, being alone in the woods and a connection to nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson even wrote a whole poem about it.

2. Italian: Culaccino

The mark left on a table by a cold glass. Who knew condensation could sound so poetic.

3. Inuit: Iktsuarpok

The feeling of anticipation that leads you to go outside and check if anyone is coming, and probably also indicates an element of impatience.

4.Japanese: Komorebi

This is the word the Japanese have for when sunlight filters through the trees – the interplay between the light and the leaves.

5. Russian: Pochemuchka

                    Someone who asks a lot of questions. In fact, probably too many questions. We all know a few of these.

6. Spanish: Sobremesa

Spaniards tend to be a sociable bunch, and this word describes the period of time after a meal when you have food-induced conversations with the people you have shared the meal with.

9.French: Dépaysement

The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country – of being a foreigner, or an immigrant, of being somewhat displaced from your origin.

10. Urdu: Goya

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The suspension of disbelief that can comes when reading a good tale.

The idea that words cannot always express everything has been written about extensively. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Words are but symbols for the relations of things to one another and to us; nowhere do they touch upon the absolute truth.”

‘Through The Language Glass’ by Guy Deutscher, goes a long way to explaining and understanding these loopholes; the gaps which mean there are leftover words without translations, and concepts that cannot be properly explained across cultures. But wait! Ella Frances Sanders,  author of Lost in Translation (a New York Times bestseller)  has now published a charming illustrated collection of more than fifty expressions from around the globe that explore the nuances of language: The Illustrated Book of Sayings For more see: http://ellafrancessanders.com/the-illustrated-book-of-sayings

I love words don’t you?  One of my favorites is “callipygous” as in a callipygous young lady; Aphrodite was callipygian i.e. “had beautiful buttocks.”   😉  Do you have any to share?

Uprooted and Relocated: Expat File#17

My guest for the Expat Files today is author, copywriter and blogger for hire: June Whittle. At age eleven, June was uprooted from tropical Jamaica to England to live with her parents whom she had not seen since she was four years old. Here is her story.

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Tiger-swallowtail on tropical blossoms

The day started normally like any other. Sunshine beamed down on us. My sisters and I played happily under the large overhanging mango tree. We hunted butterflies to catch and store, in our bottles before releasing them to fly off into freedom.

I loved living in the countryside. We lived humbly. Although we didn’t have much material wealth, we had an abundance of love between us. Our simple lifestyle in Kitson Town, St. Catherine was similar to the butterflies. Free, easy, carefree, happy and fun. Not that I know how butterflies feel. But I imagine they’re happy and have fun flying, taking rest breaks perching on the array of beautiful flowers of their choice.

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Housing Complex, St Catherine, Jamaica

Later that afternoon, an elderly lady walked up the path towards our wooden house. Smiling, she introduced herself as our grandmother, my dad’s mom. I had never seen her before, but my grandmother who we lived with, sometimes spoke about her. She hugged each of us. However, she gave me a lingering hug.

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Local area where I grew up

She went into the house with Sis, my grandmother. My sisters and I carried on playing in the yard. Shortly afterwards they called me to come inside. The decision they made that sunny afternoon changed the course of my life forever.

Sis told me to pack my grip (suitcase) because I was moving to Spanish Town to live with my new grandmother (called Granny). Shocked and unhappy, I packed my clothes fighting back tears. Shortly afterwards, I waved goodbye to the close family I had known all my life. I walked off hesitantly with a woman I had never met before. Disbelief ripped through my whole being and pain tugged at my heart.

How could an 11-year-old girl rebel against decisions adults make? I did as I was told. So, I moved to a new school and a whole new area. A few months later, I began to settle down into my new lifestyle.

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Nevertheless, two years later, another bombshell dropped. Granny told me she was going to the UK and, instead of sending me back to St Catherine’s, I was traveling with her.

I waved goodbye to my familiar family. Three weeks later, I stepped off the boat onto the cold shores of Southampton, England. My mom and dad who left me in Jamaica when I was four came to meet us. And, my little sister who I never met before welcomed me to the cold, damp, grey country. The dreary day matched my mood.

While my dad was driving us to London, the first thing I noticed was how quiet it was. Cars didn’t beep their horns like they did in Jamaica. The houses were joined up and they didn’t have verandas. Plus, for the first time I saw snow.

Soon, I adapted in my new life, new school, new friends and new family in Fulham, London. However, I missed Jamaica, my sisters, friends, Sis and the sunshine. My little sister didn’t help the homesick feeling. She was amazed by my strong Jamaican Patois accent and believed it was her job to teach me to speak the Queen’s English. She corrected my every word. Within six months, I had lost most of my then lifelong accent.

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Me starting my new school in the UK

Life at school, Hurlingham Comprehensive, and in the UK was challenging. I encountered a lot of racism. At school, the girls teased me because I was different from them. I was extremely timid and didn’t have many friends. They mistook my shyness for aloofness.

So, I truanted a lot from school. After mom dropped me off in the mornings, I caught the bus back home. But, one day she came home early and caught me. I was grounded and wasn’t allowed to see anyone outside of school. Anyway, after that incident, I stopped taking unauthorized time off and carried on with my studies. When I finished school at 16, I worked at a few jobs for different companies.

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Me in Amsterdam in the 80’s

I saw my grandmother Sis again. She visited the UK once before she died in 1989. It was blessing to see her and spend quality time with her. She was a strong woman all the way and taught me a lot about the values of life.

My other grandmother, Granny, developed dementia in her 60s and had to go into a home. It broke my heart because she didn’t recognize me the last time I saw her. Sadly, she died in the care home.

Although I felt like I came to the UK by force, as I grew up, I knew it was the best decision my family made for me. I had a wonderful relationship with my mum, dad, grandmother and little sister. And, eventually my two sisters also came to the UK to live.

On reflection, changes in life are not always welcomed. Nevertheless, sometimes that is our destiny, even though we may not be aware of it at the time. If I hadn’t come to the UK, I wouldn’t have had my three beautiful daughters and grandchildren. They are my world.

Like so many expat children (TCKs**) June experienced culture shock, but she also was uprooted from family twice: once from her parents and then from the grandmother who had raised her as a young child and her sisters;  on top of that she had to deal with racism. She also writes about difficult  times, in relationships as a young adult in her book:  Deep Within my Soul: Finding Hope After Abuse           (**TCK is the acronym for “Third Culture Kids” – raised in different cultures, they may end up living in their own “third culture” as an expat.)

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June Whittle

June would be glad to answer any questions you have. Please leave your comments below.

You can also connect with her at the following Links: Miraculous Ladies; Divine Copywriter ; https://www.facebook.com/MiraculousLadies?ref=hl

Horriblescopes

I rarely reblog, but this is so clever from funny blogger JTTwissel. (Click below to see the whole post – it gets even better!) Enjoy!

JT Twissel

You are likely to have a new, exciting and sexually passionate relationship. This is a time for new and exciting things, not the routine. This leads to what will happen if you are already in a relationship. Expect the unexpected! Maybe even a baby or news about pregnancy! – Gemini yearly horoscope for 2017 from Sunsigns.org

On New Year’s Day the first thing I did was read my horoscope for the coming year. I don’t know why I bother. Those darn things are never remotely accurate but I keep hoping.  However, this year they really screwed the pooch. The last thing I need in my life is an affair!  I can barely handle one man. horoscope

My husband thinks it’s silly to read horoscopes (he calls them horriblescopes) however he is neither superstitious nor overly imaginative (he’s an Aries, wouldn’t you know). He’s also quick to point out that due to…

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ONE WILD AND PRECIOUS LIFE

What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life? After holding this lovely phrase in my head for a year or two I found out who wrote it: Pulitzer prize winner Mary Oliver in her poem The Summer Day.  Some mornings I woke up and there it in my mind like a challenge.

Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver

Here are some of my favorites of her wonderful words:

“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
Mary Oliver

“To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go”
Mary Oliver

imagesHere’s another excerpt I relate to:

“Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable…

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way … as you no doubt have yours.

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit…motionless until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost unhearable…”

wildgeeseHer most famous is perhaps WILD GEESE (excerpted):

“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”

For more go to: http://peacefulrivers.homestead.com/maryoliver.html#anchor_14792

Do you have a favorite poet, poem – or just a line that sticks in your head?

The MOST WONDERFUL TIME of the Year

My favorite (American) holiday is Thanksgiving.   Those of you in other countries should consider adopting it. No stress over shopping (well retailers are trying to change that but I ignore) for presents, no crowded streets, just time together with friends and family to enjoy a sumptuous feast …. And of course a reminder to be thankful for all we have.c3ab33c512b43d7d5d1b81f634ab18e4-250x312

We’ve had rain lately in northern California (something else to be thankful for) but the Thanksgiving weekend is often relatively warm and sunny. In fact some of the fall leaves are still in color on the trees and I see a hint of blue skies today. This year my sister-in-law has invited us to Seattle so we’re sure to have some rain. She and my brother-in-law will be putting on the feast for 17 people! We said we wanted to see all the nieces and nephews and looks like they’re accommodating us.picture-2605

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! And remember to take a moment to appreciate your life and those who mean the most to you.

Literature Increases EQ as well as IQ

We know that reading sharpens the brain, expands vocabulary and develops judgment. But research now shows that literature seems to improve our emotional quotient (EQ) as well is our IQ. The School of Social Research in New York, found that readers of literary fiction (sorry pulp fiction didn’t count) scored higher than any other group on a test designed to rate empathy. Participants looked at photographs of subjects and fervent readers could usually correctly identify whether the person was angry, upset, sad etc.

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Understanding what others are feeling is critical to our social relationships. So even though reading is a self-contained pursuit it could influence your work and social life in a positive way. When we read a novel and relate to a character we also feel understood ourselves, or, perhaps something we always thought was true is validated in a book.images

Novelists put our thoughts and feelings into words. This may actually improve mental health. Of course it is possible that people with high EQs are naturally drawn to literature (rather than literature imparting this “skill”) – did the chicken or the egg come first? Whatever – pick up a good book … it’s good for you …. And maybe even the people around you!

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  Makes sense:  if you are mentally and emotionally  well-balanced you are better equipped to handle life and easier to be around.

 

Great novels can be transformative and get into your subconscious in a more primal way than self-help books. Several therapists, “bibliotherapists” if you will, in fact “prescribe” certain books for therapeutic reading on a case by case basis. They are not saying books cure problems, but rather offer support or comfort.  Here are a few examples from Ella Berthould and Susan Elderkin who say that feedback is 99% positive:

The Color Purple by Alice Walker; Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora N. Hurston; The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim; Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins; Family Matters by Rohintin Mistry; What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt  (this latter is for bereavement, especially for those who have lost a child).

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We often hear people say a book changed their life. For me I’d say John Steinbeck’s novels “upped” my EQ.  Have you had a similar experience?  What are some of your favorites?

Consolation

In this short life-
That merely lasts an hour-
How much- How little-
Is within our power

-Emily Dickinson

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In searching for this image a song came into my head from kindergarten…
“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine….nobody’s going to blow it out,                                    I’m going to let it shine.  Let it shine, let shine , let it shine.” 

I think I’ll get under the covers and go to sleep with this in head. (My secret is out: In times of stress I revert to childhood simplicity and comfort.)