I recently completed Google’s ‘‘Living on the Web Quiz’‘. It’s linked to the imminent launch of their new laptop which uses the search engine giant’s own operating system employing web-based applications only. Even though I knew the quiz was a marketing questionnaire masquerading as a quiz, with pretty birthday card imagery, I couldn’t stop myself somehow. I wanted to see how much I was ‘living on the web’. Turns out less that everyone else.
Not living on the web that much
One of the questions was ‘You’re scheduling an important meeting with your dodgeball coach. Do you… (a) use desktop calendar software, like Outlook? (b) use a web calendar that syncs to all your devices, like Google Calendar? (c) pencil it into your schedule book? or (d) write it on your hand? Now, I used to be a (d) person. Then I got a job. Now when I’m in the office I’m an (a) person. However, for some reason I try to be a (c) person (ok, the ‘some reason’ is that I really like those Moleskine diaries that appear every year in my Christmas stocking, but I have to force myself to use them, even perversely writing reminders retrospectively). When I’m not an (a) person I have a technique, which I can’t seem to shake, of e-mailing myself: I write something meaningful / meaningless / nothing in the subject line, a scrap of text or URL in the body, my name in the ‘To’ field, and click ‘send’, hoping I will read it and act on it after an undefined period of time has passed. It’s an imperfect system, but it doesn’t work!
All this is a long-winded prelude to excusing the amount of time which has passed between spotting this nice article by Jane Nethercote on the Lonely Planet blog (September 2010…) called Say again? Words that have no translation, e-mailing it to myself, and getting around to writing about it.
The article begins: ‘Travelling overseas and want to show the locals your know-how? You might not be able to say ‘please pass the cheese’ in Danish, but if you can use ‘hygge’ in a sentence, you’re bound to astound.’ It turns out that ‘hygge’, similar to the Dutch ‘gezellig’ is not so easy to translate.
Hygge is followed by a list of similarly untranslatable words like ‘antojo’ – a whim or sudden craving in Spanish, ‘saudade’ – a melancholic longing for better times in Portuguese, and ‘schadenfreude’ – ‘the classic’, meaning: deriving happiness from others’ unhappiness (interestingly one of the comments refers to a word in Sanskrit which means the exact opposite: ‘mudita’). There are also some more obscure words like the Czech ‘litost’, the Farsi word ‘ta’arof’, and the romantic ‘vacilando’, another Spanish word.
Do you have a word you’d like to share? From Irish I have ‘craic’, but I’ll leave it to the Urban Dictionary to venture a translation. Share your word here.