I remember having an epiphany once . . . and it was this: you can’t think thoughts unless you have words with which to think. Which made me wonder how in the world Hellen Keller thought anything before her epiphany with Anne Sullivan . . .
A recent experiment conducted by researchers at MIT asked groups of Russian and English speakers to identify identical squares. The subjects were shown three blue squaes, two identical and one a lighter hue. The Russian speakers, whose language has more words to describe shades of blue, accomplished the task more quickly than the English speakers.
When you have the proper word, you think faster and better. When you have to search for a word, the process slows down.
I was reading Paul Ekman’s book, EMOTIONS REVEALED, the other day, and discovered a lapse or two in the English language. First, he was talking about the feeling of jubiliation you get when you accomplish something extraordinary. The word PRIDE is too ordinary, Ekman claims (and I agree), so he offers the Italian word *fiero*–the feeling a tennis player gets after winning a difficult match, the emotion you feel after winning a race, finishing a book, or getting an A on that paper.
Another word we lack is supplied by Yiddish: the word is NACHES, and it is “the glow of pleasure plus pride that only a child can give to his parents.” As Ekman says, naches is the emotion, kvelling is its expression. Now, if someone will only tell me how to pronounce these words, I’ll be all set.
One more, and I’ll really need pronounciation help on this one–the feeling you experience when you learn that your worst enemy has suffered is called schadenfreude. When the devil is chained for 1,000 years, we’ll feel schadenfreude. (Maybe it’s just easier to say we’ll GLOAT . . . actually, I’ve never thought about it until now.)
And if you cannot feel any of these emotions, you suffer from anhedonia–and that’s an English word meaning no emotion. Someone with anhedonia feels no fiero, naches, or . . . gloating. 🙂
May you experience fiero and naches today. If you find yourself kvelling, tell me how to pronounce it, okay?
P.S. Check this out–it’s the most creative book website I’ve ever seen (HT to Brad Whittington!) http://www.noonebelongsheremorethanyou.com .