Untranslatable but universal: the expressions that bring us together
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It's perhaps not surprising how strongly expressions with no English equivalent can resonate. After all, it's the meaning behind them—and the intangible emotions they convey—that reflects the strength of connections between different cultures around the world. Today, instead of sharing travel stories, we're traveling from Germany and France to Greece and Japan through language.
Eleutheromania: from ancient Greek to contemporary English
Eleutheromania—an intense longing or yearning for freedom—is thought to have its origins in ancient Greek mythology. Eleutherios (meaning liberator) is an epithet attributed to Dionysus, the god of wine and excess, who could liberate men from their inhibitions. Today, eleutheromania has gained more positive associations in English. It's used to describe an insatiable desire to travel, one that sometimes even borders on obsession. It might be a feeling you recognize...
Mono no aware: a Japanese celebration of ephemeral beauty
Mono no aware is a spiritual and aesthetic concept unique to Japan. Although the expression itself dates back to several centuries earlier, we owe our understanding of its meaning to the 17th-century poet Norinaga. He defined mono no aware as a "sensitivity for the ephemeral": emotions of sadness, joy, or appreciation brought about by the transient nature of time, both in life and nature. Nothing encapsulates the feeling like the fleeting joy of seeing the cherry blossom each spring.
Voorpret: a Dutch promise of pleasure
Voorpret can be interpreted in two ways: either simply as "anticipation" or "the enjoyment of anticipation". But, for the most part, this Dutch word is used to describe the joy and excitement of waiting for something good to happen, perhaps a party, event, or vacation. It's an apt word right now, as we think of the trips we'll soon be able to take—even if they're close to home.
Saudade: the sweet melancholy of memory in Portuguese
Often considered the most difficult word in the language to translate, saudade is used widely in Portuguese. Made famous by singer Cesaria Evora, it evokes nostalgia and longing for another place, another time, or another person. Although it's used in speech and literature, its a feeling even better conveyed through music.
Dépaysement: a French change of scenery
Frequently used in French, the word dépaysement has no direct equivalent in English. It's commonly translated as a change of scenery, but its meaning runs much deeper. The feeling of dépaysement could be finding yourself abroad in an unfamiliar place or out of your comfort zone. Think of that little rush of fear, excitement, and adrenaline when you arrive in a new destination, and how it brings your own life into perspective.
Fernweh: a German longing for far-flung places
While we have wanderlust (also derived from German), Germans have fernweh. This intense need to escape, travel, and explore new places is the opposite of heimweh (homesickness). Now immortalized in Instagram captions and posters around the world, it reflects our never-ending desire to break free from routine and set off on our next adventure.
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