When there is no word for it in English, why not just invent one?
New vocabulary is invented all the time, but many experiences have no words to describe them, such as the urge to squeeze a fat baby’s legs
The Observer, Sunday 10 August 2014
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Lauren Laverne: ‘There are many human experiences the English language has yet to name, such as the German kummerspeck – grief bacon – meaning weight gained by emotional overeating.’ Photograph: MS photos/Alamy
When even our expansive lexicon fails me, I look beyond my mother tongue. “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” and all that. Other cultures have pinpointed human experiences which the English language has yet to name.
The Japanese have “forest bathing” (shinrin-yoku), the Germans “grief-bacon” (kummerspeck). The former describes a constitution-boosting trip to the woods, the latter weight gained by emotional overeating.
A few of my other favourites: the Welsh word hiraeth – a quietly melancholic longing for home similar to the Portuguese saudade (a yearning for something that might never return). The onomatopoeic Danish plimpplampplettere describes skimming stones, and zeg is the day after tomorrow in Georgian, which I shall use until the arcane “overmorrow” makes a comeback.
Global Language Monitor, which documents language trends, counted 1,025,109.8 active English words on 1 January and estimates that a new word is created every 98 minutes, which should take us to approximately 1,028,814.2 by the time of going to print.
The new edition of the Chambers English dictionary, released a couple of weeks ago, contains 1,000 new entries including (warning: those of a sensitive intellectual disposition may wish to look away now) yolo, bitcoin, hipster and selfie.
But there are still some things with no words to fit. So I have taken the liberty of coining a few new words myself. Many of these pertain to my digital life (so often a matter of frustrating, nameless emotion) but feel free to add your own. You can contribute below and by tweeting me @laurenlaverne.
The particular deliciousness of fat little babies, especially their legs (there is actually a Filipino word – “gigil” – which describes the urge we feel to pinch or squeeze something irresistibly cute): “chubulent”.
The false “hm” of polite but ultimately insincere amusement given in answer to the jokes of someone you like but don’t find funny: “naslol”.
Behaviour by which someone asserts their superiority through the collection of hip lifestyle purchases: “curative-aggressive”.
You make a joke and the person you make it to repeats a slight variation on it back as if they’d just thought of it themselves: “jokesplaining”.
The addictive petit mort produced by hate-watching TV programmes which keep you at the emotionally dissonant midpoint between horror and pleasure: “Cowellgasm”.
Taking pleasure in the unimpressive social media update of another: “statusfreude”.
Using an unnecessarily laborious piece of technology (once considered labour-saving) as an aesthetic affectation: “typewritentious”.
Satisfaction induced by completion of household tasks: “domecstasy”.
One who behaves as if their intellect makes them superior to others: “dawk”.
Weight gained in winter: “hiberbacon”.
Embarrassment induced by accidentally adding kisses when signing off on a text or email to a colleague: “mortificaXXon”.
Loving one’s friends, but also wishing they would go home: “PPSD”. (Post Party Stress Disorder).
The tempting fiddlability of one’s minor wounds: “masturgrazetion”.
Political sensitivity mainly exhibited for expediency’s sake around elderly relatives, cabbies: “right-off”.
I’m still looking for one more … a word for the mistaken belief that there is no English equivalent for a non-English word, such as Schadenfreude, which many people believe doesn’t translate, but which of course simply means epicaricacy. Suggestions welcome.