“When we are green, still half-created, we believe that our dreams are rights, that the world is disposed to act in our best interests, and that falling and dying are for quitters. We live on the innocent and monstrous assurance that we alone, of all the people ever born, have a special arrangement whereby we will be allowed to stay green forever.”—Tobias Wolff, This Boy’s Life
Nothing to do in weather like this but read the depressing books I got from the library. So far: psycho-diarist (Engleby) and ad agency love polygon (Palladio). Next up: Korean sleeper agent noir (Your Republic is Calling You).
Screw it all, I’m rewatching 27 Dresses. What’s the point of being literate if everything you read is so depressive?
“If you asked the Yale alumnus William Howard Taft what he thought of the Yale experience, what would he say? Nothing, because he’s dead! How much do you think Eli Whitney is benefiting from his education at Yale? Not very much at all, unless his diploma is somehow slowing his inexorable decomposition in a New Haven grave. No matter where you look, the evidence is clear: there is a direct and undeniable correlation between attending Yale University and eventually dying.”—A Decision Letter From Yale, Then a Sandwich and a Nap - NYTimes.com
“I feel my sense of who I am drowned out by static. On the street, in the world, there’s too much extraneous filth and air and words. I don’t find life unbearably grave. I find it almost intolerably frivolous.”—Engleby by Sebastian Faulks
“The other thing about journalism is that although at the top end it seems to attract well educated, even intelligent, people, it’s basically quite unbelievably easy. You ask a question and write down the answer. You repeat the process a few times. Then you see what all the answers add up to, put them in sequential order with a simple linking narrative and go to the pub.”—Engleby by Sebastian Faulks
"I’m so excited to open my presents! My boyfriend bought me so many things! I know at least two boxes are shoes. I think one pair is Coach. I was snooping on the computer and saw the Coach page was up." - Coworker A
"I don’t get why people spend more than they can afford on Christmas presents. You don’t need big gifts if you don’t have the money. Do they have the money? No! They have credit cards." - Coworker B
Russian – Vladmir Nabokov describes it best: “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”
Yagan (indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego) – “the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start” (Altalang.com)
Indonesian – “A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh” (Altalang.com)
Inuit – “To go outside to check if anyone is coming.” (Altalang.com)
Czech – Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, remarked that “As for the meaning of this word, I have looked in vain in other languages for an equivalent, though I find it difficult to imagine how anyone can understand the human soul without it.” The closest definition is a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.
Japanese – “A mother who relentlessly pushes her children toward academic achievement” (Altalang.com)
Scottish – The act of hestitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name. (Altalang.com)
Tshiluba (Southwest Congo) – A word famous for its untranslatability, most professional translators pinpoint it as the stature of a person “who is ready to forgive and forget any first abuse, tolerate it the second time, but never forgive nor tolerate on the third offense.” (Altalang.com)
Czech – This word means to call a mobile phone and let it ring once so that the other person will call back, saving the first caller money. In Spanish, the phrase for this is “Dar un toque,” or, “To give a touch.” (Altalang.com)
Brazilian Portuguese – “The act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair.” (Altalang.com)
German – Quite famous for its meaning that somehow other languages neglected to recognize, this refers to the feeling of pleasure derived by seeing another’s misfortune. I guess “America’s Funniest Moments of Schadenfreude” just didn’t have the same ring to it.
German – Translated literally, this word means “gate-closing panic,” but its contextual meaning refers to “the fear of diminishing opportunities as one ages.” (Altalang.com)
Japanese – Much has been written on this Japanese concept, but in a sentence, one might be able to understand it as “a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.” (Altalang.com)
French – The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country.
Pascuense (Easter Island) – Hopefully this isn’t a word you’d need often: “the act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them.” (Altalang.com)
Danish – Its “literal” translation into English gives connotations of a warm, friendly, cozy demeanor, but it’s unlikely that these words truly capture the essence of a hyggelig; it’s likely something that must be experienced to be known. I think of good friends, cold beer, and a warm fire. (Altalang.com)
17. L’appel du vide
French – “The call of the void” is this French expression’s literal translation, but more significantly it’s used to describe the instinctive urge to jump from high places.
Arabic – Both morbid and beautiful at once, this incantatory word means “You bury me,” a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them.
Spanish – While originally used to describe a mythical, spritelike entity that possesses humans and creates the feeling of awe of one’s surroundings in nature, its meaning has transitioned into referring to “the mysterious power that a work of art has to deeply move a person.” There’s actually a nightclub in the town of La Linea de la Concepcion, where I teach, named after this word. (Altalang.com)
Portuguese – One of the most beautiful of all words, translatable or not, this word “refers to the feeling of longing for something or someone that you love and which is lost.” Fado music, a type of mournful singing, relates to saudade. (Altalang.com)