Lee's Lexicon

  • With the new year having arrived and all the resolutions being made, I thought I’d wander back on over to Japan for my linguistic fun this week; ikigai is a word that was popularized in the 60s in Japan, meaning ‘purpose in life’ or ‘reason for living’ or something along those lines. It seemed appropriate for a time when we’re all examining habits and ideas and ideals we wish to keep and which we wish to break. 

  • This week I cheated a little bit and I didn't choose an untranslatable word, really. Or even a single language. But! This is still a lexicon, so I have to have some kind of language-y thing going on, so: 'Merry Christmas' in Finnish is hyvää joulua. In Russian it's c Рождеством. In Spanish it's Feliz Navidad. German is frohe Weihnachten.

  • I realize that the last time I did a German word it was...also not a very nice one, and I promise that next time I use German it will be a more fun word, because it really is, despite its reputation for harshness, a very beautiful language. But that is next time; this time, the word is weltschmerz. It is an amalgamation of the words for 'world' and 'pain', meaning the sense of weariness and hurt that one gets from thinking about the state of the world. It was coined by an author, Jean Paul, in 1827, in a novel he wrote, and ended up entering the common vernacular.

  • This week for the first time I’ve gone the exact opposite of the northern Scandinavian languages I’ve been on about, and have gone to Africa (so to speak). 

  • I've kept to the Scandinavian languages this week, though it's Swedish rather than Icelandic; not so close to Old Norse, but still a fun, interesting language in its own right. Swedish was one of the first languages I studied in-depth, when I was first discovering my love of languages back in high school, right after Finnish, and as you can see, my fascination with the languages of that part of the world hasn't really faded with time, even as I've also spent a great deal of time studying languages of various other parts of the world.