COSMIC CAFE: Cross Cultural Emotion

By on September 6, 2016

Ten oddly familiar feelings pinpointed by folks across the globe.

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JACKSON HOLE, WY – Though science can now locate precisely where in the brain we register many emotions, it cannot capture the incredibly rich range of subtle and complex feelings we are capable of experiencing. I’ve researched a selection of words from other languages, which have no equivalent in English, and yet describe emotions with which we are familiar. See if you recognize some of these in your own experiences.

Awumbuk (Papua New Guinea): It’s the ironic thing about having houseguests. As the days of their visit add up and you’ve prepared lots of meals, acted as both tour guide and program director, you start thinking to yourself how nice it will be when they go home and you have your space back. But after they finally leave, your place often feels too empty. The people of Papua New Guinea have a word for this: awumbuk, the feeling of “emptiness after visitors depart.”

Kaukokaipuu (Finland): Let’s say you are of Irish or Italian or Egyptian (or other) descent, and you’ve never actually been to the country of your ancestry. However, you experience an ache for it, as if you miss it or long for it. This is a contradictory sort of feeling, since you can’t really miss someplace you’ve never been. The Finnish recognize that this emotion exists. They gave it the name kaukokaipuu, a feeling of homesickness for a place you’ve never visited. (Cosmic Café would add that you’ve likely been there in a past life if you feel an emotional longing, rather than a simple curiosity, for a place you’ve never been.)

T’thadshi (Israel): If you are a woman (or man) who loves to shop, then you know that feeling of excitement when you discover and purchase the perfect thing. Israeli salespeople will say this to you as they hand you the bag with the item of clothing, shoes or jewelry that you just purchased. The word T’thadshi translates as,“ May you savor the special joy of newness.”

Tsundoku (Japan): The Japanese language often captures subtle emotions. This word describes the feeling when you buy a book at a bookstore (or for your Kindle), and then never read it. (I’ve done it.)

Iktsuarpok (Inuit, Northern Alaska, Canada and Greenland): Have you ever looked outside over and over because you are expecting someone to arrive? The Inuit language expresses this feeling in one word. Iktsuarpok is “the feeling of anticipation that leads you to keep looking outside to see if anyone is coming.” (Maybe you did this as a child at Christmas time, eagerly anticipating relatives or being on the lookout for Santa Claus.)

Altschmerz (German): This word describes the feeling of being weary with the same old issues that you’ve always had—the same boring flaws and anxieties that you’ve been gnawing on for years. Ever felt this one? (Time to let it go.)

Malu (Indonesia): You’d like to think you have pretty good conversational and social skills, and yet they disappear and your mind goes blank if you find yourself sharing an elevator with the CEO of your company, or your professor or a celebrity. The indigenous people of Indonesia know how you feel. Malu is their word for “the sudden experience of feeling constricted, inferior and awkward around people of higher status.”

Dapjeongneo (Korean): Whew. We know this feeling and do not have an English word for it. This word describes when somebody has already decided the answer they want to hear after asking you a question, and they are waiting for you to say that exact answer.

Ya’aburnee (Arabic): This is a deep expression of love. The word translates literally as “you bury me.” It’s actually a declaration of one’s hope that you’ll die before a person you love, because of how unbearable it would be to live without them.

Verklempt (Yiddish): Maybe you are feeling this right now, after reading about all these emotions you couldn’t quite put your finger on. This Yiddish word means “overcome with emotion.” Pronounced “fur-klempt,” people use it when they cannot think straight, they’re on the verge of tears, or at a loss for words because they are so overwhelmed by emotion.

A tip for dealing with your emotions

The most constructive way to tackle emotions is to feel them fully, and then allow them to pass through you like weather passes through the moutains. This approach allows you to be happier and healthier as you experience an ever-changing flow of feelings. PJH

Carol Mann is a longtime Jackson resident, radio personality, former Grand Targhee Resort owner, author, and clairvoyant. Got a Cosmic Question? Email [email protected]

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