I remember hearing once that there was a word in another language that describes the feeling you get when you think something is so cute that you get the urge to squeeze it. There isn’t a specific word for this sensation in the English language, and this idea of “untranslatable” words has been explored by Tim Lomas, PhD. These words emphasize feelings that we may have had before, but are unable to describe through the use of the language we know. By introducing the ideas and feelings that other languages have words for, we can further the types of happiness that we are capable of understanding through diction.
From this idea, Dr. Lomas developed an index titled “The Positive Lexicography”, which contains these untranslatable words from many languages around the world that relate to happiness and well-being. Dr. Tim Lomas has also written many books, papers, and published articles on the topic, and many others have continued his studies on their own as well. The lexicography is continuously evolving, and can be found on Dr. Lomas’ website. Here are a few examples*:
“Pretoogies” – Dutch:
referring to the twinkling eyes of someone engaged in benign mischief
“Tarab” – Arabic:
a word for musically induced ecstasy
“Tabanca” – Creole:
the bittersweet feeling of being left by someone you love
“Ohanami” – Japanese:
a word for gathering with others to appreciate flowers
“Fernweh” – German:
describing a longing to travel to distant lands; a kind of homesickness for the unexplored
“Morgenfrisk” – Danish:
describing the satisfaction one gets from a good night’s sleep
“Otium” – Latin:
the joy of being in control of one’s own time
A social media campaign was created, called “The Happy Words Project”, which can be found on Dr. Lomas’ facebook page. People are encouraged to contribute to the campaign by adding their own suggestions through recordings and videos, which promotes happiness and positivity through new words and ideas. You can follow @DrTimLomas on all social media platforms, participate using the hashtag #HappyWordsProject, or follow @HappyWordsProject on Instagram for illustrated words of the day.
Thanks for reading!
*The Unique Joy Of Learning New Words Language Article by Katy Steinmetz, TIME Magazine, October 1, 2018.