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Words we should import

December 8, 2015

A few weeks ago I reviewed Gaston Doren’s book Lingo for the Independent on Sunday. Doren, a polyglot, takes an entertaining journey through some fifty European languages, noting their quirks and singularities. At the end of the chapter on each language he gives an example of words they have for which we don’t have equivalents, and which we might benefit from importing. Here are a few: in Luxembourgish (did you even know there was such a language?) there is a word verkennen, which means “to gradually experience the effects of old age in body and mind”. In Channel Island Norman, still spoken by a few thousand people, there’s a word Ussel’lie, which means “the continual opening and closing of doors”. Latvian has a word for the day before the day before yesterday: aizaizvakar. Sorbian, a small language minority in Germany, has a word for the enjoyable hours that follow the end of the working day: swatjok. Greek has the word krebatomourmoura – this literally means bed-murmuring, and connotes pillow-talk “with an element of discord”. Everyone knows the German word schadenfreude, but did you know they also have a word for its opposite? Gönnen means to be gladdened by someone else’s good fortune. My favourite comes from Dutch, though: the word uitwaaein means to relax by visiting a chilly, windy, rainy place.

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One Comment
  1. Luc permalink

    Dear Brandon,
    It’s “uitwaaien” and it’s the same in Flemisch (Dutch spoken in Flanders).

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