Foreign words have their uses…

Following the death of a close friend last year, two new (to me) words came my way because loss has a way of galvanising certain thoughts and making us think.

My daughter responded to the news with an expression of sadness, followed by one word, a Dutch word, Gezelligheid. I looked more closely, as it struck me that it is what makes a life lived.

gezelligGezellig is socialising, having fun, enjoying life. Not necessarily in a frenetic way. It’s interesting that English, such a rich language, doesn’t have an equivalent word to this. It is, it seems, a warm, fuzzy feeling which we would probably call contentment.

It seems to be about finding joy in simple things. As you can see, I am already using many words to try to explain how one feels when mindfully in the right place, with the right person/people doing something which makes you feel good. That something may be nothing much, it may be undramatic.

Conversely, a friend introduced me to a Spanish word, Duende. Ignoring gnomes and elves, which is very Lord of the Rings, Duende seems to be about soul, authenticity and spirit within creativity. So, here we are talking a heightened state of emotion.

Put simply, it’s what makes me cry at Madam Butterfly, the passion of the flamenco, the gazing at an awesome piece of art which stops me in my tracks, an incredible sunset. Hearing fantastic music. In English, we’d probably go down the Romanticism route, with its heightening of the senses. We must bear in mind that there are differences. El Duende appears to be anti-intellectualism from my limited understanding, the focus very much on authenticity rather than style. Hardship, love, life and death are part of it.

In terms of expressing condolence, I must admit that being confronted by two very different words, one indicating feeling totally and blissfully at one, the other about spirit, soul and passion has been thought-provoking.


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