maps words

Pause for the love of words

One of the things I love is how a word can make me pause. Sometimes it is a word from another language other than English. The unfamiliarity of the sound or the meaning of it can be profound. Being surprised by words either their meaning or sound is one of my great life delights. In the fast-paced world, it is hard to stop to relish in these words so I invite you to take a pause as I share some words that recently caused me to stop for a few moments.

As you may be aware, English is a bit of an awkward language with its limited vocabulary or sometimes it doesn’t have the right words to express the complexities of my current emotions especially during the past two months of quarantine and as society attempts to re-open. I may be feeling a bit “sirva vigad” (see below for the meaning.)

In these cases, other languages are needed. Back in the Sept/Oct 2019 issue of AFAR magazine, there was a great article reviewing the book “The Atlas of Happiness” by Helen Russell. She shares some words from different cultures that try to capture the happiness of being.

“That got me thinking about other words that bring joy to me or provide a description on how to approach life. Here is a list of some of my favorites”

Azart (Russian): The burning desire to go after everything life throws at you regardless of outcomes

Bhava (Sanskrit): when you are listening to music and all is blissful and right with the world

Dolce far niente (Italian): the sweetness or beauty of doing nothing and enjoy the moments of joy around you. Savouring the taste of a delicious gelato or the heat of the sun on your face

Fika (Swedish): The moment you pause for a cuppa, a cookie, and conversation with friends

Fjaka (Croatian): Relaxing your being and enjoying doing absolutely nothing

Hygge (Denmark): the coziness of the warm home, cup of tea and feeling content.

Joie de Vivre (French): it is all about the joy of life and going after what brings you joy

Kalsarikannit (Finnish): This may be my favorite one. It is all about getting drunk in your underwear and embracing the fact you don’t have to go out. The epitome of JOMO (Joy of Missing Out)

La Pura Vida (Costa Rican): This is just a way of life in Costa Rica where the current moment and the people around you are all that matter

Sirva vigad (Hungarian):  This is about experiencing pleasures tearfully; a melancholy feeling when joy and sorrow intermingle

Sobremesa (Spanish): Again, another favorite because it is literally translated to “after table” and it is all about the flowing conversation that happens after the meal is done. You know, when the deep discussions get going with those you love

Wabi Sabi (Japanese): Simplicity and the beauty of age. Happiness is found through the imperfections of life.

I stumbled across a great article on the website that digs into the connection between words and emotions. To discover some other “untranslatable” words, check out Dr. Lomas who is mentioned in the BBC article. His website collects positive lexicography and may provide more words to explore to express your own emotions.

Sometimes it is the little things like words that can make you see things in a different way. Noticing these small joys is part of momentary pauses we can take on a daily basis. Perhaps a mini-sabbatical of delight if you will.

What words spur your imagination or make you pause you in your tracks? 



Wabi Sabi by Beth Kempton

The Atlas of Happiness by Helen Russell

Mental Floss: 9 Untranslatable Words

AFAR “Happiness Around the World” article (mentioned above)

Globe & Mail article: May 25, 2019 “Italians Do it Better” by Helen Russell

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