For Lack of a Better World
December 7, 2014 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever felt avenoir, the desire that memory could flow backwards? Or maybe you've worried that everything has already been done, every photograph has already been taken, every poem you can think to write already written. The word vemödalen is here for you. Or maybe you're frustrated at being stuck in one body, in one place, unable to explore more of the world. John Koenig has a word for that too: onism. posted by yasaman (20 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
No, but I have felt roineva.
posted by sexyrobot at 1:07 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've felt sonder to the point that it's one of the Tenets of Obi-Wanism.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:19 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


The word vemödalen is here for you.

No, you can keep it. I know the language and the place, and that just makes my brain hurt.
posted by effbot at 1:28 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


YOLO and FOMO
posted by blue_beetle at 1:43 PM on December 7, 2014


Had to go look up FOMO. My immediate thought was: fucked over, moving on. Which, IMO, may just as apt an acronym for the world of today.
posted by Chrischris at 1:48 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


fartoir: a room for farting in.
posted by Pronoiac at 3:21 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Saudade an untranslatable word.
Maybe this will help.
(That second link mentions the marvellous Tierra del Fuegan word mamihlapinatapai).
posted by adamvasco at 3:23 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]




The closest thing to a truly untranslatable word I can think of is xibipío, from the language of the Pirahã. It can be translated as "disappeared from my observation" or "gone out of my experience" in a way that could refer to a flickering candle or a dead friend, but no translation into English could capture what it means to someone from a culture that is so different from our own and that is so concerned with the present that they do not even talk about the future or the past.
posted by Nothing at 5:08 PM on December 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


And why exactly should I consider David Shariatmadari and his anglo centric triteness when I can read Machado de Asis?
posted by adamvasco at 5:10 PM on December 7, 2014


Mind you Miguel wrote the definitive post on Saudade though unfortunately the links are gone now.
hairyeyeball provided a good definition.
posted by adamvasco at 5:21 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


YOLO and FOMO

YOLO ergo FOMO
posted by bicyclefish at 9:24 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I liked the text version of the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows just fine, but something about the videos really hits at that 'sorrow' bit for me. With avenoir especially, the conceit of living backwards, of experiencing life through memory rather than experience, is just 'eh' when considered in text form. But in the video, seeing Koenig's home movie footage spool out from present to past to cover his whole life, it becomes a lot more poignant.

The onism video also zeroed in on one of my "obscure sorrows" too. I was particularly struck by the line, "If someone were to ask you on your deathbed what it was like to live here on Earth, perhaps the only honest answer would be, 'I don't know. I passed through it once, but I've never really been there.'"
posted by yasaman at 10:24 PM on December 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


"Living backwards!" Alice repeated in great astonishment. "I never heard of such a thing!"

"——but there's one great advantage in it, that one's memory works both ways."

"I'm sure mine only works one way," Alice remarked. "I can't remember things before they happen."

"It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards," the Queen remarked.
posted by Acey at 4:16 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also somewhat reminiscent of Vonnegut's Trafalmadorians.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:07 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Saudade an untranslatable word.

"We’d all like to believe in untranslatable words. It’s such a romantic thought: that there exist out there, like undiscovered desert islands, ideas we have never even conceived of. Carefully guarded by foreigners they have endured down the centuries, nuggets of culture overlooked by the rest of the world. There are a fair few linguistic and non-linguistic assumptions bound up in this romance, most of which are decidedly dodgy. [...] Then there are the often-cited examples themselves. They’re nearly all ridiculous, when you look at them closely."


The other funny thing about this is that often, the romance of the "untranslatability" depends on very culture-specific ideas of what the "other" language/culture is like. Americans loooove to envision Germans as harsh, authoritarian, and matter-of-fact, and I've seen dozens of examples and jokes of "crazy German words!!" like so, that demonstrate their deep starkness. But of course this is more about how Americans see Germans than anything else. (Also, I enjoy asking people how, if German is such an Ugly Language that reflects some deep cultural "harshness", then how are so many of the Western-canon musical masterpieces written by German speakers?)
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:05 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


The word vemödalen is here for you.

No, you can keep it. I know the language and the place, and that just makes my brain hurt.


To expand on this, Vømmøldalen is a fictious Norwegian rural valley, invented by the Norwegian singer-songwriter Hans Rotmo. It's supposed to represent the values of Norwegina rural communities, focused on solidarity, family and tradition. In contrast there's the fictious urban city Porcelain, where capitalism is king and the Vømmøl values are ignored, which attracts younger generations, pulling them away from the valley of Vømmøl, leaving behind farms that now are empty for the first time in centuries.

Seeing this almost-the-same word used to describe such a different thing can, indeed, be head-hurting.
posted by ymgve at 8:07 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Digging through the youtube comments (something I generally try to never do, ugh), I found Koenig's explanation for vemödalen:

The word, while made up, is indeed derived from the Swedish vemod, "tender sadness, pensive melancholy" + Vemdalen, the name of a Swedish town, which is IKEA's product naming convention—the original metaphor for this idea was that these clichéd photos are a kind of prefabricated furniture that you happen to have built yourself. (As a side note, the umlaut isn't proper Swedish, but I liked the idea of a little astonished face (ö) sitting in the middle of the word.)
posted by yasaman at 8:45 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


(Also, I enjoy asking people how, if German is such an Ugly Language that reflects some deep cultural "harshness", then how are so many of the Western-canon musical masterpieces written by German speakers?)

Obviously the ever-efficient Germans determined that music was the proper medium for human emotion and beauty and so promptly stripped it from their language and reassigned it all to their music.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:26 AM on December 8, 2014


Yeah, the Vemdalen he refers to is a Swedish skiing resort, named after the Veman river. The -dalen bit means "the valley" in Swedish, but "ö" means island, so it becomes "the Veman river island valley" which doesn't parse.

And the explanation makes it worse, since the two words don't share any roots; it's "vem-dalen" (the vemen valley) and "ve-mod" (literally woe+mood, but it basically means the same thing as saudade, minus the lusophonic hipster angle) which doesn't parse either.

Double parse error, so of course my brain rejects it.

And I see why someone who knows about Vømmøldalen could end up with a similar disconnect.

(Also, I cannot resist mentioning that Vemdalen is in the part of Sweden that's sometimes referred to as Eastern Trøndelag, while Rotmo was apparently born in North Trøndelag, and the Vømmøl valley, I assume, might be somewhere in Trøndelag too. It's a small world :-)

(And yeah, the Swedish side is also known as the Republic of Jämtland. I have their flag hanging above my desk at work, jamt å ständut!)
posted by effbot at 2:13 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


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