Untranslatable, Redux.

Graduate School... you get what you ask for, apparently. Finals are near, and the studying required is thorough and immense and complex. We are swamped.

In the last week I've collected some new Untranslatable Words though, so it won't take but a short minute away from the books to share them with you...Some of them are relevant to my time so far in Sweden, some may not be... but they are good nonetheless.

1. Vorfreude (German)- What you feel when you are really looking forward to something.
It's good to have a stronger word for this sentiment. And I think some of what my Swedish friends really feel "vorfreude" for is seeping into me as well... a cozy snowy tradition-steeped holiday season, for special formal dinners, for sunny vacations that are very very far in the future...

2. Cafune (Brazilian Portuguese): The tender running of one's fingers through the hair of one's mate.
Splendid. Of course the Brazilians have a sensual word like this. Thank you.

3. Tartle (Scottish dialect): To hesitate when you are introducing someone whose name you can't quite remember.
Geez.. I'm having a problem here in Sweden with names. And faces. Not usually an issue for me. So I have been Tartling for sure. Also, I need a word for the other related phenomenon for when I introduce myself to a friend of a friend and they say, "Yeah, Corinne, I know. I've met you like 3 times. " Oops.

4. Saudade (Portuguese): A word commonly used for a certain type of strong or just wistful longing for something or someone or somewhere that you're not around.
I believe Saudade characterizes part of the experience of studying/living abroad. When my Swedish friends were living in Santa Barbara, I remember their Saudade so well... for Swedish bread and yogurt, for their own apartments, for their own language... Now Saudade finds me. Saudade can apparently be mild or very powerful. Mine isn't too strong at this point...but it's there. I feel Saudade for the Montecito Starbucks. I feel it for my neighbors kids. I feel it for going running at City College beach stadium. I feel it for playing soccer on Saturdays. I feel it for my friend Anna back in Santa Barbara, one of my first post-college SB friends having a baby, and I don't get to be around her as she goes through it.

5. Mamihlapinatapei (Yagan, an indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego, near Chile): "wordless and meaningful looking into each other's eyes by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start."
What a precise word to describe a tricky and not altogether super frequent situation. I love it. Why use so many words for this when you can just say one and be done with it. Reminds me of how someone has brought up that they feel that Swedes use eye contact more as a means of communication in social situations than those from English-speaking Western countries are accustomed to, something I'm still trying to decide if I agree with.

6. Accouche qu'on baptise! (French): "Give birth so we can baptize!" An extremely impatient way of saying get on with it, there are people waiting for what you've been called upon to produce.
Don't take so long, people. Get to the point in our seminar about what you want to say. Don't take so long to take people's money at the door so we can get out of the cold and get into the club. Accouche qu'on baptise, downtown Lund McDonald's... reportedly the slowest in Sweden. Fast food? No. Slower than slow food.

7. Miereneuker (Dutch): It literally translates as "ant-fucker" and can be fairly accurately translated as "nitpicker", therefore, "to be concerned with or find fault with insignificant details."
Since it translates pretty well in some languages, it doesn't really qualify here, but linguists who study untranslatable words like it enough to include it in some of their lists anyway. The phrase gets even crazier though... In French, to nitpick is "Enculer des mouches"... which literally means "to sodomize flies." Yikes. That's determined.

8. Serendipity (English): Oh hey! We have difficult to translate words in English as well. It means "good luck in making unexpected and fortunate discoveries."
This word is a common part of my vernacular, probably thanks to my mom's best friend, who as I grew up I always heard say in appropriate contexts, "Serendipity, baby!!" When you're discovering a lot of new things in moving abroad, many that are difficult, sometimes the unexpected good things are just that much more meaningful and helpful, so especially in Sweden, Serendipity is welcome and precious.

9. Whimsy (English): to have a fanciful, imaginative and impulsive humor or disposition, or excessively playful expression.
My friend Josh from Santa Barbara always calls me "whimsical." In person, on facebook updates, on my going away video... I don't know if I agree that whimsy always characterizes me, but I love the concept of it and am surely drawn to whimsical things and am happy we have this term. Makes up a little bit for not having "Cafune."


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