Wednesday, May 6, 2009

You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth

One of the best words not in the English language (although have we appropriated it yet?) is schadenfreude--feeling happy at someone else's misfortune. But that's not the only word we need in English. Check out some of the words other countries have that describe that thing you've been feeling but couldn't name.

A couple favorites:

  • Espirit d'escalier (French): When you think of the perfect verbal comeback... much too late.
This always happens to me! Or rather, someone else tells me about an insult they received and I have the perfect comback for them...which obviously doesn't help. In the situation, your brain is too shocked to make the appropriate reply. Unless you're like Xander Harris: "I'm not gonna waste the perfect come-back on you now. But don't think I don't have it. Oh, yes, its time will come!"
  • Backpfeifengesicht (German): A face badly in need of a fist.
You totally know those people. Usually we just call them asshats. But sometimes you need a little German to get at what you're really feeling--the need to punch a mutha. (Like Brody Jenner.)
  • Tatemae and Honne (Japanese): What you pretend to believe and what you actually believe, respectively.
Call it social filtering. Maybe you're a little bit racist but just don't say it. Maybe you secretly like going to church but don't tell your friends in case they think you're lame. Maybe you seriously hate dogs but everyone else loves them so what can you do? You've got to put on your socially appropriate face and go along with whatever people think. You sheep, you.
  • Sgiomlaireachd (Scottish Gaelic)
The Scottish are totally my people, because this happens to me on a daily basis. I'm an office assistant and generally I eat lunch at the desk, which means people do not need me until I get out my sandwich. Then it's like every two minutes there's a copier malfunction/student with a question/phone call. Otherwise, it's the usual "waiter asks how the food is just after you've taken a bite." But the office lunch thing kills me.

Which foreign word is your favorite?