Positive Lexicography
January 29, 2016 8:56 AM   Subscribe

Dr. Tim Lomas is creating a positive cross-cultural lexicography: an evolving index of expressions from many languages for positive emotional states and concepts pertaining to well-being. Most do not have immediate English equivalents. View by Alphabet, Language or Theme. posted by zarq (21 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Schnapsidee (German): an ingenious plan hatched while drunk.

Holy shit I never realized I needed this word until now
posted by Greg Nog at 9:22 AM on January 29, 2016 [10 favorites]

Ctrl+F Saudade

1 match

Site checks out.
posted by sidereal at 9:26 AM on January 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

hmm well at the risk of being negative, the German section for one seems sloppy: Erlebnis just means an experience, a lived thing, you can have a gutes or a schlechtes Erlebnis, Feierabend just means the time when you're done for the day (habe heute um 4.30 Feierabend), I've only ever heard "Schnapsidee" used disparagingly, and "Vorfreude" isn't necessarily that "intense", etc...

Also, someone with a PhD is referring to "Aboriginal (Australian)" as if that was one language??
(on a quick google, seems the word is originally "from the Ngan’gikurunggurr and Ngen’giwumirri languages).

Seems to be on a sub-Bill Bryson, "didju know the Eskimo[sic] have 50 words for snow!!1!" level of rigour and usefulness...
posted by runincircles at 9:46 AM on January 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

And yet still no one has a word for when you're swimming and you take something off like fins or clothing and you get that delicious feeling of freedom and buoyancy on your skin or body part.

Uitwaaien (Dutch): walking in the wind for fun.

ohmygod I love you Dutch!
nobody ruin it
posted by barchan at 9:54 AM on January 29, 2016

I second the German tx is sloppy.

Cwtch (Welsh): to hug, a safe welcoming place.
Wow, is this why women were witches in the Puritan world, offering an alternative?

You can see a lot of crossover in the first read, Latin/Greek intrusion into Hungarian words.

The Navajo greet with ya ta hey, and tack on a time of day, yet Navajo and Cherokee languages are not linked, but the good day to die Cherokee greeting, sounds the same.

posted by Oyéah at 9:56 AM on January 29, 2016

Ramé (Balinese): something at once chaotic and joyful.

cf. Rammy (Scots): a brawl, altercation.
posted by scruss at 9:58 AM on January 29, 2016

Mbuki-mvuki (Bantu): to shed clothes to dance uninhibited.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:03 AM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ctrl+F Saudade

Huh, I hadn't really thought of it as a positive emotion, but look at me learning!

ctrl+F hygge: also well-and-good
posted by psoas at 10:17 AM on January 29, 2016

Do other languages have the equivalent of "hangry?"
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:24 AM on January 29, 2016

I believe Desenrascanço was the first time wikipedia got mentioned on national media. We're a nation of McGuyvers.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:25 AM on January 29, 2016

runincircles: hmm well at the risk of being negative, the German section for one seems sloppy:


You can add a comment to the project's main page with corrections if you like. He's taking submissions from the public, so it's possible that he's unfamiliar with proper German & Aboriginal context/usage.
posted by zarq at 10:25 AM on January 29, 2016

Schnapsidee (German): an ingenious plan hatched while drunk.

Holy shit I never realized I needed this word until now

posted by Strange Interlude at 10:26 AM on January 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Fernweh (German): the ‘call of faraway places,’ homesickness for the unknown.

Thank you for the diagnosis, Doctor. This perfectly describes my symptoms.
posted by pjsky at 10:44 AM on January 29, 2016

Some of the Russian ones seem incorrect to me, with the caveat that I don't speak Russian, but those words are also words in Serbian where they are commonplace and prosaic words. E.g.

Duša (душа): one’s inner heart and soul. - means soul - I guess that's a word with a lot of baggage and imagery attached to it no matter what, but it doesn't really carry anything that the English "soul" doesn't. "Dušo" (vocativ) or Dušo moja is used as a term of endearment in the way that the English "soul" isn't, so maybe that's it.

Prostor (простор): desire for spaciousness and freedom. in Serbian, at least, this is a noun that just means "space," and not like outer space*, but rather, space as in, "that desk is too large for this space."

*speaking of cool words in other languages, the Serbian word for outer space is svemir, which is a compound of "sve" [all, everything] and "mir" [peace, tranquility, calm]. So, the place beyond our planet is the "all peace"
posted by Aubergine at 11:09 AM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Most did not have immediate English equivalents.

posted by ethansr at 11:13 AM on January 29, 2016

Vacilando (Spanish): wandering without concern for the destination.

Vacillating over the land. One of my favorite pastimes.
posted by Oyéah at 11:30 AM on January 29, 2016

Seconding runincircles and Aubergine: This seems unacceptably sloppy (and yes, in Russian душа and простор just mean "soul" and "space"). Furthermore, I have no idea what he means by "positive"; why are these in the list?
Dhárma (धर्म) (Sanskrit): laws of the universe, guidelines for action.

Dhyāna (ध्यान) (Sanskrit): meditation.

Dō’ (道) (Japanese): a spiritual path or way.
Is it just "anything that isn't actively depressing"? And does he just add whatever people send him? It looks to me like your standard Bill Bryson-style list of vaguely impressive, unresearched trivia/bullshit.

tl;dr: Meh.
posted by languagehat at 11:43 AM on January 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Furthermore, I have no idea what he means by "positive";

Can't speak to your other points, but the author is a ‎lecturer in Positive Psychology at the University of East London.
posted by zarq at 12:28 PM on January 29, 2016

Well, it's a start for something good, but certainly Not Ready For Prime Time* if it doesn't meet the minimal languagehat standards (and the hat-man is NOT a pedant). But today we've had posts about chins, Toni Tennille, Muppet commercials, back-up cameras and a bunny in a dress, so it must be Frivolous Friday.

*an untranslatable English term
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:36 PM on January 29, 2016

This site is really lovely in a warm fuzzy way, even though I'm sure the translations are iffy. Like, Nakama (仲間) (Japanese): deep platonic love for a friend. As far as I know, nakama just means colleague. There was actually a squabble about this in the One Piece fandom because one fansub group chose to leave "nakama" untranslated, claiming it had a special meaning that communicated a pirate crew's family-like closeness. "Nakama" was even used on TV Tropes for similar close-knit groups that had each other's backs, like the crew of the Serenity. Then the nakama drama started, in which fans with varying degrees of fluency in Japanese traded insults about who was a dumb weeaboo who thought Japanese was mystical and magical and who was a soulless fun-crusher with no sense of community and doubtless not a True Fan. Then a consensus arose that "nakama" was just another word and could be translated to crew, friend, comrade, or "one of us" depending on context, and that the special meaning it had for the fans had come from the lengths the characters had gone to for their crewmates (d'aww).
posted by knuckle tattoos at 1:08 PM on January 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

"sprezzatura" may have been briefly en vogue among 16th century Italians, but it's positively defunct nowadays.

Also, "commuovere" is no more/less than to move, emotionally, and "saper vivere" sounds, if anything, like borrowed French - where it's a concept of its own (despite Dr. Lomas not featuring it in this compilation of his): "savoir-vivre".

And that improvising to make ends meet - "arrangiarsi" - necessarily counts as "postitive", is, at best, moot.

"Magari", on the other hand, stands.

His German section is already subject of enough of a pile-on that I'll pass (not without noting his stark confusion about "heimlich").
posted by progosk at 12:56 AM on January 30, 2016

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