Wednesday, February 08, 2012

WNW: Valentine's Day Edition

For today's Word Nerd Wednesday, I'm chiming in a day late with relationship words in other languages.

This one's inspired by an article in Big Think by Pamela Haag. I stumbled upon it some time ago that listed top 10 foreign words about relationships that have no English equivalent.

Of course, the word nerd in me was all over that.

I love how languages have nuance and meaning, and how even a pretty simple translation from one language to another often lacks some of the feel and flavor of the original.

For example (taking a brief departure from Valentine's Day):

Two of my favorite words of all time are Finnish and have no English equivalent: sisu [SEE-soo] and jaksa [YAHK-saw].

Sisu is sometimes translated as "guts," but that's an incredibly lame word for it. Sisu is more of the drive, the fire, the power in someone who endures and comes out the other end. Sort of. You have to know the Finnish to really get it. If you can endure a really hot Finnish sauna then jump in a hole cut into the frozen ice of a lake, you probably have sisu.

Jaksa refers to the capability or strength (physical, emotional, whatever) to do something. If someone asks you to go do the laundry, and you say you don't jaksa, they can't argue with you. If you don't jaksa, you just . . . don't.

But back to the article, which you can read HERE from Big Think:

I'll touch on my three favorite words in it, and then you can read the full piece yourself. It's worth it.

The first one I'll mention is Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese). As a writer who has written lots of romantic-ish scenes, this one really come in handy if we had something like it in English: "The act of tenderly running your fingers through someone's hair."

I'm totally with the author of the piece on the next one: Why on earth doesn't English have a word to describe "the happiness of meeting again after a long time"? (The words is Retrouvailles (French).

And finally, an Arabic word: Ya’aburnee: “You bury me.” In other words, "a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person, because of how difficult it would be to live without them."

As the Haag points out, it's a similar sentiment to "I can't live without you," but far more mature and poetic. I can see an elderly couple saying the Arabic word to one another.

The English version, on the other hand, is something a love-struck sixteen year-old would say.

Again, here's the link to the original piece. If you know other interesting words without good English equivalents, pass them on!

NOTE: THE 2ND PRECISION EDITING GROUP LIVE CRITIQUE WORKSHOP IS 2 WEEKS FROM THIS SATURDAY (ON MARCH 3). YOU WON'T WANT TO MISS OUT. TO REGISTER AND FIND FULL DETAILS, VISIT THE PEG WORKSHOPS BLOG.

5 comments:

Jami said...

Those are some good ones. I love cafuné. (Or would that be I love to cafuné?)

Sue said...

Interesting stuff, Annette. Thanks!

=)

Mina said...

Jaksa. That's it. That's my problem lately. And sometimes it's dorky, lame, small things that I just can't bring myself to do. We need an English word for that. It would be much easier to explain myself to ... well, myself.

Lara said...

Love it!

Romanian has a word like jaksa. It's chef (pronounced kef), only you have it instead of do it. I use it all the time because I frequently find lacking chef and there just isn't any good way to say that in English. Glad to know I can now use jaksa because people around here would actually get that!

Also, sisu. I love that word. In the Finnish opera I was in last summer we sang a whole song about it. The lyrics were something like "it's not only guts, it's stubbornness beyond reason...."

Jessica G. said...

I'm feeling all gooey and mushy inside after reading this! Good thing I have a date tonight. :)

Why Suomi 100 Means So Much to Me

(TL;DR: scroll to the end to snag Song Breaker for free. Today only.) One hundred years ago, on December 6, 1917, Finland declared indepen...