Thursday, April 27, 2017

Wai-wai

As I write this post, I can hear the sound of children playing outside my window. 

They shout and yell and laugh. They make rules and break them. Small victories are celebrated by slapping their friends enthusiastically on their backs, and whooping loudly. While slights, real or imagined, see them take sides on behalf of the misunderstood aggressor or the aggrieved victim.

The games leave them dusty, yet the sweat washes their hearts clean, teaching them about fair play and the importance of giving the game your all.

English doesn’t have one word that could conjure all of the above, but Japanese does. That word is Wai-wai and it stands for the sound of children playing.

Kids hardly ever understand the larger-than-life significance of these games. It is left to us grownups to ponder over the deeper meaning of Wai-wai and what it represents.

Long after we have ceased to play these games.


Do you like Wai-wai?


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Vybafnout

Some joys are priceless, and all children, regardless of which cultures they hail from, learn to enjoy them. 

One such joy is Vybafnout, Czech for the act of jumping out from a hiding place or from behind a wall or a door and surprising someone by saying ‘boo’.

I can remember when Vybafnout was a whole lot of fun. Sadly, in growing up, I traded Vybafnout for a frown on the forehead and a serious, long face. Not a good trade at all.

Today, my kids practice Vybafnout every chance they get.

To keep the fun quotient high, I ensure that I act suitably startled, clutching my hand to my chest and acting as if the boo has caused me to lose my equilibrium. The kids like that, even though they know I’m only kidding.

I know that, because once I was so preoccupied, I didn’t put on my act, and they told me that it is better when I act frightened out of my wits. Since then I oblige.


I hope you’re not too old to enjoy Vybafnout.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ungdayee and Uitzieken

I’ve always wondered why English didn’t have a word for that slow, languorous stretch with which many people begin the day.

Cats do it all the time, after every nap. And even dogs are not averse to stretching themselves, in an attempt to restore activity to their limbs.

And yet English has lacked a word for this important activity.

Enter: Hindi with its helpful Ungdayee, a word which describes the stretch that you do first thing in the morning, soon after waking up.

I believe that an Ungdayee represents the perfection of a satisfying night’s rest. It contains neither hurry nor restraint.

You wake up, and stretch yourself, pulling yourself to your full length, as you seek to lose the hold that sleep has had on you, and become fully alive to the new day and all it has to offer.

Over the last few years, I’ve allowed myself to become so occupied, and preoccupied, that I wake up and rush out of bed, eager to complete all my chores before leaving for work.

It is only, of late, that I have begun to understand what a luxury an Ungdayee could be, what a rare treat.

Did you give in to the urge to enjoy an Ungdayee this morning?


Of the many things I have inherited from my father, the one thing that used to drive my mother crazy was our shared tendency to Uitzieken, Dutch for nursing one’s illness in the hope that it will run its course if you just take some rest and wait for it to leave.

In practice, things aren’t easy. Some illnesses are obstinate things and Uitzieken doesn’t prove effective against them.

Sometimes I discover that the hard way. 

But there are many times when Uitzieken does prove its efficacy.

The ancients used to say that the body was capable of healing itself. They have to be right some of the time.

Do you consider Uitzieken effective?


Monday, April 24, 2017

Tartle and Tenya Wanya

Memory is a fickle thing. You can rely on it most of the time, except when you are called upon to introduce someone, at which point instead of helpfully throwing up the name of the person you are introducing to another, it promptly pulls the sheets over its head and nods off to sleep.
You know the feeling? You are about to introduce person A to person B, and at the crucial moment, you can’t remember person A’s name. That’s Tartle, Scottish for the act of hesitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.
Generally, I’m very good with names. But if I met you once over a year ago, and the interaction lasted for less than a minute, you must forgive me for going Tartle on you.
So I do the honest thing. I admit that I don’t remember the person’s name, and then the person introduces himself or herself.
I have no patience for those who suffer from Tartle and won’t admit to the truth. When I catch someone afflicted with Tartle, particularly someone who can’t remember my name, I let them stew in their discomfort for a while, before putting them out of their misery.
Have you ever suffered from Tartle?

Tenya Wanya is Japanese for the act of runnng around like a chicken with its head cut off.
As a rule, I rarely panic. But when I do, I panic to the fullest, exhibiting complete Tenya Wanya.
In India, people display Tenya Wanya while crossing the street, darting hither and thither between lanes and cars, often raising their hands, to signal to the drivers and motorists that they should slow down or halt so that the practitioners of Tenya Wanya can cross the street.

Have you ever displayed Tenya Wanya?


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Szimpatikus, Sobremesa and Solarfri

The S words I have for you today are linked by one thing, sheer goodness.

We’ll start with Szimpatikus, a Hungarian word that describes the good vibes you get when meeting someone for the first time.

Some of my closest friends today are people about whom I had a ‘good’ feeling, the first time I saw them. It’s not the basis upon which I embark on new friendships, but in hindsight, I have realized that there are some people that I simply did feel extremely positive about, the very first time I met them.

I don’t know the reason for Szimpatikus. Maybe it might have to do with the feelings with which we approach others. Maybe we can tell when someone has good intentions towards us, and maybe that translates into those good vibes.

Of course, I have never had bad vibes the first time I met someone, so I’m glad about that. I hope that means that I keep a positive attitude towards others.

Have you ever experienced Szimpatikus?



The Spanish have yet another interesting word that English could adopt. Sobremesa describes the particularly happy state of affairs around a table, when the food is long since eaten, and the appetites are all satisfied, but the conversation keeps flowing.

I love Sobremesa. I’ve enjoyed it with family and friends alike.

Once the hunger pangs are stilled, you talk about other good times that this Sobremesa reminds you of, of the folk you miss who should have been around this table, of your dreams and hopes.

There’s a lot of laughter and deep and fulfilling conversation.
The clock ticks swiftly while a Sobremesa is on, but the loud laughter and song, and the endless conversation prevents anyone from hearing its ticking, and when someone finally realizes how much time has elapsed, it is with a faint sense of regret, wishing these moments could be stretched further. But nay, life’s struggles and compulsions intrude.

Do you enjoy Sobremesa?


The fun word of the day is Sólarfrí, an Icelandic word that describes an unexpected holiday that workers are granted so they can enjoy a particularly sunny/warm day.

Good to know they have their priorities right.

In India, we get a Sólarfrí when it rains, so of course, technically, we can’t call it a Sólarfrí, but you get what I’m trying to say. Schools are shut when there is a heavy downpour.

A few companies in a couple of states in South India declared a holiday on the day that Kabali, a film, was due for release. The leading man of Kabali has a huge fan following, and it was expected that thousands of people would play truant from work and keep their phones switched off in order to avoid being disturbed by their workplaces.

Believing that “if you can’t beat ‘em, you must join ‘em,” the companies declared a Sólarfrí, earning tremendous goodwill from their employees in the process.


Were you ever given a Sólarfrí?


Friday, April 21, 2017

Resfeber and Estar de Rodriguez

Today I bring you two words that English should welcome enthusiastically. I have a selfish, rather personal, reason for wanting the second, of course.

Resfeber, courtesy Swedish, describes the restless beat of a traveler’s heart before the journey begins, the anticipation and the anxiety, the desire to get going, to begin the adventure that they have no doubt awaits them, not just at the end of their journey, but at every step along the way.

When did you last experience Resfeber?



The second word I have for you today is actually a phrase, but it is interesting, and personal, and that is why it is here.

Estar de Rodriguez is Spanish for the state of being left home alone while the family goes out on vacation. Isn’t that cute?

If you haven’t guessed why I want this phrase, let me remind you that Rodrigues is my family name, though as Rodrigues go, only my Dad was ever Estar de Rodriguez. When we went on extended vacations during our school holidays, it was Mum, my brothers and I that had a good time at our ancestral home in Goa. Dad would not be able to take off from work for all that time, so his vacation would be reduced to a week.

The rest of the time, Dad (poor guy) would make his own meals, try to keep the house as clean as he could, and leave for work in the morning, returning home to a locked and empty house in the evening. I always felt sorry for him, having to live alone, without us to brighten up his life.

Now that I think of it, Estar de Rodriguez was what Kevin McAllister was in the three Home Alone films.

It’s good to know that it was our surname that was used, though I have no idea why. Maybe it is a common family name in Spain.

Or maybe some chap called Rodriguez went berserk when his wife and kids left him alone while they went on holiday. And the rest of the Spaniards thought they’d make an example out of him.


Have you ever been Estar de Rodriguez?


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Qarrtsiluni and Querencia

When it comes to Q-words, the English language is rather lean, so I was wondering if I would find anything worth sharing in other languages. To my surprise, I came across two words that not only felt right to my vocabulary, but also seemed to answer some deep need within me.


Qarrtsiluni is an Inuit word that describes the act of sitting together in the darkness, waiting for the light.

I just love it when a word lends itself to metaphorical usage, and Qarrtsiluni does that in ample measure.

I am reminded of how so often in life, we are Qarrtsiluni, waiting for something better to happen, for some way in which our lives might be brightened.

In many ways, Qarrtsiluni hints at the dark just before the dawn, at how if we but wait patiently, at a time when all hope is gone, we will be rewarded by the bursting forth of light.

But even more than that, I guess it means that we can nudge Qarrtsiluni along. If you are in darkeness right now and waiting for the light, perhaps we could stand up and light a lamp or a candle to dispel the darkness ourselves. Give hope a chance to breathe, and be rewarded when day finally breaks.

Have you ever been in a stage of your life in which you found yourself Qarrtsiluni?


Querencia is a Spanish word that describes a place where one feels secure, a place from which one draws strength, a place that feels like home. But that place doesn’t have to be four walls standing together or even a physical location.

My Querencia are my parents. They are aging, and I cherish each moment I spend with them, or speak to them over the phone. Knowing that I have them on my side gives me tremendous strength.  

Strangely, I consider my children my Querencia too. Their ages are in the single digits, and they both need all the protection and encouragement that the Husband and I can give them. And yet, ironically, they prop me up in turn. I feel deeply honoured to be their mother, and every time I see them, I feel renewed.

My books are my Querencia too. As is my Rosary. In my most desperate moments, I turn to God in prayer, and feel uplifted.

Where is your Querencia? Is it a person or a place?




Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pelinti Bula and Pilkunnussija

Today I want to share with you two new words that I didn’t even know I needed. 

The first of these is Pelinti Bula, from Ghana. It’s a word that describes the instinctive, involuntary action we end up doing when we inadvertently eat something piping hot. 

The hot dance that our mouth responds with, the one in which we move the hot food around in our mouth in a desperate attempt to cool it before swallowing, while shouting “Ooooohhhh” and “Aaaahhhhhh,” that is Pelinti Bula, at its finest.

I can’t tell you how pleased I am to learn this word.

I have never been sensible enough to check the temperature of food before lobbing it into my mouth like a grenade. And like a grenade, it bursts.

And then I do the Pelinti Bula, tossing the food from side to side, hoping it will cool, when all it does is burn this side of my mouth first, and then the other, while scalding my tongue, and rendering it incapable of tasting anything for the next seven hours. At least.

It’s like walking barefoot on hot sand. You hop about from one foot to another, hoping the ordeal will be over.

Have you ever had to resort to Pelinti Bula?


The second word that is integral to my personality comes to us, courtesy the Finns. The word is Pilkunnussija, Finnish for a person who pays exceptional and unnecessary attention to detail.

I’m a complete Pilkunnussija when it comes to grammar. I’m always editing other people’s writing, in my mind.

But it was only a few months ago that I learned just how far I was taking my obsession with grammar.

La Niña and El Niño were playing with each other. Suddenly they started fighting, slapping and pinching each other. I quickly ran towards them and pulled them apart.

Unable to vent out their anger physically, they began to point fingers at each other.

“He started it,” said La Niña.

“No, Mamma, she bate me first, then I bate her.”

Now any sensible mother would have tried to calm her kids down. But Pilkunnussija can hardly be credited with sense.

So this Mamma said to her five-year-old son, “No, darling, that’s not the right thing to say. The past tense of eat is ate, but the past tense of beat is not bate. It is still beat. And the past tense of the word, meet, is met. Understood?”

El Niño nodded, clearly pleased that his behaviour was not being discussed any more.

I looked up, and saw La Niña, with a disbelieving look on her face. “I don’t believe it, Mamma,” she said. “Instead of scolding him and correcting his behaviour, you are correcting his grammar.”

That was when it hit me. The intensity of my Pilkunnussija.

Have you ever acted like a Pilkunnussija?







Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ohrwurm

Music, they say, is a work of art

that enters your ears and touches your heart.


Not that that’s always a positive experience.

So often you encounter a song that you hear once and then no matter what you do, you can’t get it out of your head.

Before long, you find yourself powerless, held completely in the control of that song, whatever it is.

That’s the essence of the German word, Ohrwurm, literally Ear worm. Ohrwurm describes a song that is stuck in your head so firmly that you can’t get rid of it. It is almost as if it were a worm that has entered your brain through your ear, and now it has taken over your mind.

You hum it in the bathroom, at work, at school, in the middle of a crowded street.

You sing the dimwitted, outrageous lyrics, even as your sensible mind rejects the lyrics, dismisses them as crap.

But still you sing it, again and again, until you succeed in annoying those around you too.

It grows roots in your mind, playing on loop, and you wonder if you will ever get it out. If Ohrwurm will ever lose its hold on you.

It’s much worse when the song in question is an annoying one. You’re still trapped, unable to get it out of your head.

In fact, the power of Ohrwurm lies in the fact that it is an annoying song. If it were something you liked, you might not hate it quite so much.

Have you ever had an Ohrwurm?





Monday, April 17, 2017

Namaste

Namaste.

Today I want to introduce you to Namaste, a Hindi word (from India) which means, I bow to the divine in you.

The word accompanies the action of joining one's palms and bowing to the person one is greeting.


As a Christian, I believe that we were all created in God's image and Namaste takes that thought a step further by acknowledging the presence of the divine in each of us. 

Namaste asserts that each of us, regardless of our financial status or ethnic and racial backgrounds or any of the million things that distinguish us, deserve one another's respect as human beings.

Even the vile deserve a Namaste, considering that we are not called to pass judgments on others.

Do you like the idea of saying Namaste?






Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mencolek

Today I want to introduce you to a very amusing word, Mencolek

This Indonesian word describes a very cute activity that many of us may have indulged in. Who would have thought there’d be a word for it?

Mencolek describes the act of tapping a person on the opposite shoulder from the one you intend to approach the person from, forcing the tapped person to turn reflexively toward the tapped shoulder, only to find the tapper on the other side.

As pranks go, it’s rather innocent and doesn’t even deserve to be called a prank.

The strange thing is that when somebody does a Mencolek on me, I always shrug my shoulders, and find myself thinking of the tapper, that she/he must be rather silly if they derive pleasure out of such a silly activity.

On the other hand, when I do Mencolek on somebody, I fancy myself rather clever for having outwitted the tapped person, even for a moment.

So have you ever done a Mencolek on anyone? Or has anyone ever does a Mencolek on you?




Friday, April 14, 2017

Layogenic and Livslogga

Trucks in India sport the words, Keep Safe Distance, gaily painted on their sides or back. It is a safety reminder to the driver that follows them.

It is also a reminder that sometimes distance is good, particularly when being close at hand brings no relief. Some things are better seen from a distance.

That’s the essence of Layogenic, a Tagalog word that describes something that looks good from afar but is a real mess when seen up close. 

Social media brings some painful people into our lives, and none more so than Facebook. Time spent on Facebook, I have discovered, is detrimental to our well-being, unless you are good at keeping your wits about you, and constantly remind yourself that everything you see is Layogenic

That the couple that spare no opportunity to express their love for each other online may actually be hurling pots and pans at each other.

That those who spout wisdom online may be pretty clueless about where their own lives are headed.

Can you think of anything Layogenic?





Another painful person that Facebook brought into our lives is the one who is addicted to Livslogga, literally life log in Swedish. In other words, Livslogga describes the habit of constantly taking pictures of one’s own life.

We all know them. They’ll show us pictures of themselves as soon as they are out of bed, then take us through their day, their meals, wardrobes, families, routines, everything. They are a stalker’s dream.

I know somebody who announced on Facebook that he was suffering from “loose motions.” He even included a picture of himself, sitting presumably on his throne, his forehead all creased, forcing himself into action. Fortunately, for our sanity, the picture showed him neck upwards.

I saw another picture of someone who clicked himself beaming next to the body of the dead person at a funeral. Not my Facebook friend. This was someone who was mentioned on a website to demonstrate the crassness that people sometimes display even in the presence of the dead.


Do you know anybody who is addicted to Livslogga?





Thursday, April 13, 2017

Kaapshljmurslis, Karelu, Koi no yokan and Kintsukuroi

Today is your lucky day.
Today I bring you four beautiful words that are going to enter my vocabulary.
We’ll start with the banal and move to the sublime.


First, we have Kaapshljmurslis, a Latvian word that describes a person who is cramped while using public transportation.
This is one word that I had better take to heart with all the dedication with which I take other people’s elbows into my ribs, or the forbearance with which I let other people stand on my feet. Not to mention, the number of times I have nearly suffered death by strangulation on account of having somebody else’s dupatta or stole wrapped too tightly around my neck.
Us Kaapshljmurslis are happiest when we are at home, far away from the nearest form of public transportation. If that bliss isn’t available, we’ll settle for everyone else enjoying a holiday, while we go to work, relishing the joy of being able to see our toes when we want to and turning our necks this way and that just because we can.
Oh, the travails of Kaapshljmurslis.
Are you or have you ever been a Kaapshljmurslis?

The second word I bring you is Karelu, a Tulu word (from India) which describes the mark left on the skin when you wear anything tight.
Shoes, sleeves and the waistbands of skirts and trousers, they all leave their mark on us.
At first they are too tight, digging into our skin every chance they get, but if you decide to overlook the pain and continue to wear them, then they, ingrates that they are, suddenly have the elastic go all loose on us. And then we wonder where the Karelu has gone.
Does Karelu bother you?


Koi no yokan is Japanese for the premonition of love. The feeling that hits you when you meet someone and you realize that you are going to fall in love.

Love at first sight it most certainly is not. That kind barely has time to think; it is too busy falling over its own toes. Its movement is fast and furious, as it is swept off its feet.

No. Koi no yokan is entirely different.

Koi no yokan is a slow waltz, a realization on simmer, a promise that hints at something bigger, more powerful than any other feeling, but one which you walk into, on tiptoe, if you will, knowing than an adventure is about to unfold.

When I first met the Husband, I had the sensation that I had seen him somewhere before, even though I hadn’t. We hadn’t even been to the same places before that.

And yet he looked deeply familiar. Like someone I knew, or should have known and had forgotten.

That’s the closest I’ve come to Koi no yokan.

Of course, all that Koi no yokan doesn’t stop me from wondering if I had my head screwed tight back then. Or from gritting my teeth in frustration sometimes.

Koi no yokan is the presentiment of love, but it’s not magic. You still have to put in the hard work if you want love to last.

Have you experienced Koi no yokan?



And then I have Kintsukuroi, Japanese for the art of repairing broken pottery by filling the cracks with gold or silver, so that in the end, what is broken and mended is even more valuable.

I won’t ask you if you’ve gone through Kintsukuroi.

I know you have.

As Ernest Hemingway said, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”





Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Jayus

There are some people who have the knack of telling a funny story. 

They will build their story to perfection, adding layer upon layer, until they bring in the punch line with just the right tone and mood that leaves you in splits. And then you find yourself guffawing, unable to control yourself.

And then there are the others. Folks who couldn’t tell a joke if their lives depended on it.

These are the people who excel at killing a perfectly good joke and turning it into a Jayus, an Indonesian word that describes a joke that is so unfunny (or told so badly) that you just have to laugh.

You would think that a bad joke teller ought to be able to tell when he/she has just told a Jayus.

That the annoyed glances and the strained laughter ought to be a dead giveaway.

But it doesn’t work like that.

These Jayus tellers, for want of a better word, they excel at their craft. These people are where good jokes go to die, and where bad jokes are revived, zombified and served for public consumption.

The best joke can get badly mangled in their hands. The Jayus tellers will tell the joke in the wrong order, often squeezing the punch line between the beginning and the end.

Sometimes they will tell a clichéd Poor Joke, as if they had just made it up, and every other kindergarten aged child wasn’t already aware of it.


Have you ever been guilty of telling a Jayus? What do you do when self-styled humourists unleash their Jayus on you?


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