Tag Archives: Writing

The Richness and Diversity of Language

words do matter - Cincibility/Wordpress

words do matter – Cincibility/Wordpress

There are at least 250,000 words in the English language. However, to think that English – or any language – could hold enough expression to convey the entirety of the human experience would be naive.

HERE ARE A FEW examples of instances where other languages have found the right word for which there is no English equivalent.

1. Toska

RussianVladmir Nabokov describes it best: “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”

2. Mamihlapinatapei

Yagan (indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego) – “the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start” (Altalang.com)

3. Jayus

Indonesian – “A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh” (Altalang.com)

4. Iktsuarpok

Inuit – “To go outside to check if anyone is coming.” (Altalang.com)

5. Litost

Czech – Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, remarked that “As for the meaning of this word, I have looked in vain in other languages for an equivalent, though I find it difficult to imagine how anyone can understand the human soul without it.” The closest definition is a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.

6. Kyoikumama

Japanese – “A mother who relentlessly pushes her children toward academic achievement” (Altalang.com)

7. Tartle

Scottish – The act of hestitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name. (Altalang.com)

8. Ilunga

Tshiluba (Southwest Congo) – A word famous for its untranslatability, most professional translators pinpoint it as the stature of a person “who is ready to forgive and forget any first abuse, tolerate it the second time, but never forgive nor tolerate on the third offense.” (Altalang.com)

9. Prozvonit

Czech – This word means to call a mobile phone and let it ring once so that the other person will call back, saving the first caller money. In Spanish, the phrase for this is “Dar un toque,” or, “To give a touch.” (Altalang.com)

10. Cafuné

Brazilian Portuguese – “The act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair.” (Altalang.com)

11. Schadenfreude

German – Quite famous for its meaning that somehow other languages neglected to recognize, this refers to the feeling of pleasure derived by seeing another’s misfortune. I guess “America’s Funniest Moments of Schadenfreude” just didn’t have the same ring to it.

12. Torschlusspanik

German – Translated literally, this word means “gate-closing panic,” but its contextual meaning refers to “the fear of diminishing opportunities as one ages.” (Altalang.com)

13. Wabi-Sabi

Japanese – Much has been written on this Japanese concept, but in a sentence, one might be able to understand it as “a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.” (Altalang.com)

14. Dépaysement

French – The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country.

15. Tingo

Pascuense (Easter Island) – Hopefully this isn’t a word you’d need often: “the act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them.” (Altalang.com)

16. Hyggelig

Danish – Its “literal” translation into English gives connotations of a warm, friendly, cozy demeanor, but it’s unlikely that these words truly capture the essence of a hyggelig; it’s likely something that must be experienced to be known. I think of good friends, cold beer, and a warm fire. (Altalang.com)

17. L’appel du vide

French – “The call of the void” is this French expression’s literal translation, but more significantly it’s used to describe the instinctive urge to jump from high places.

18. Ya’aburnee

Arabic – Both morbid and beautiful at once, this incantatory word means “You bury me,” a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them.

19. Duende

Spanish – While originally used to describe a mythical, spritelike entity that possesses humans and creates the feeling of awe of one’s surroundings in nature, its meaning has transitioned into referring to “the mysterious power that a work of art has to deeply move a person.” There’s actually a nightclub in the town of La Linea de la Concepcion, where I teach, named after this word. (Altalang.com)

20. Saudade

Portuguese – One of the most beautiful of all words, translatable or not, this word “refers to the feeling of longing for something or someone that you love and which is lost.” Fado music, a type of mournful singing, relates to saudade. (Altalang.com)

The hardest part about learning a new language isn’t so much getting acquainted with the translations of vocabulary and different grammatical forms and bases, but developing an inner reflex that responds to words’ texture, not their translated “ingredients”. When you hear the word “criminal” you don’t think of “one who commits acts outside the law,” but rather the feeling and mental imagery that comes with that word.

Thus these words, while standing out due to our inability to find an equivalent word in out own language, should not be appreciated for the English words that we use to try to describe them, but for their own unique taste and texture. Understanding these words should be like eating the best morsel of your favorite food: the enjoyment doesn’t come from knowing what the chef put into the seasoning, but from the full experience that can only be created by time and emotion


I Write Because I Must

Taken In Amalfi, Italy

Writing Bears Witness by RPM

Writing bears witness…What writing brings to my life is clarity and tenderness…it gives me a place to pour out my emotions… to say, I really miss my dad or my mom or my dog….it keeps me sane.

One of the reasons that I must write is that, in a thousand little ways, writing keeps me from abandoning myself.  I often feel that my writing is like a cherished best friend who cherishes me and has only my best interests at heart.  I usually write when I have something that I need to figure out or sort through.

Writing can be naughty – an act of self-possession.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Writing is about energy, about perfect imperfection, about humanity.

Yes, I write because I must!



 Traditional freelance writer work system.

Good writing is an art.  Some have the gift and others don’t!  Anyone can become proficient, however.

Those who believe a good writer merely crafts words, however, are off the mark.  A really good writer is one who helps the rest of us see the world differently through their words on paper.  Yes… through what they write we can actually come to see the world from rarified heights.    

That’s the part that can’t be taught.

Good writing requires making choices that require taking risks.  Choices like which thought comes first? Which mode of expression is most likely to succeed? Ultimately, which words, in what configuration, best offer the greatest clarity of expression?  These choices equate to style or “voice.”

A writing course can teach you that these things are necessary and to look at writing in terms of the ideas you want to express, but a writing course won’t show you how to arrange these thoughts and ideas or how to communicate them effectively.  Most people can be taught structure and grammar and how to use these skills. 

What that boils down to is useful mechanics that can be used well enough to communicate concisely, intelligently, effectively, and even gracefully.

Know, too, that there are differences in writing for different media. Vast differences, So, understand who you’re attempting to write for and don’t knock useful mechanics. It’s all that writers — even the best — start out with.

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Since a fairly young age I’ve found keeping a personal journalto be a great tool for helping me access and sort through my inward churnings.

Writing has always provided me with an anchor in my life, a means of self-criticism.  Writing in a journal provides a way to view yourself objectively and to express what you feel without fear of judgment.

While many people who journal on a regular basis do so because it makes them feel better, until recently there hasn’t been any scientific evidence to prove it.  Nancy Linnon, who lectures on writing and health at Canyon Ranch Resort and Spa in Tucson, Arizona, says; “I haven’t found one person who said journaling didn’t help them.”

Felice Willat, the founder of Day Runner, Inc., happened upon her idea in the late 1970s. She envisioned a product that would help individuals tap into their inner worlds. When Day Runner emerged, it reflected the tone and needs of that time-crunched era.  It served to organize the many roles, goals and activities that continue to fill our busy lives.  Individual approaches to these challenges vary from drawing circles and highlights on a refrigerator calendar to creating elaborate entries on desktop computers. While organization is beneficial, there is more to life than running errands, keeping lunch dates and brainstorming at the office.  Our inner lives are as big, if not bigger than, our outer lives.

Journaling helps integrate and organize our complicated lives in a variety of ways. It not only resolves traumas that stand in the way of important tasks; it helps in remembering significant events and turning points; it captures our creative stories, poems and ideas; it helps us discover and define our values and purpose; it helps us reap the wisdom of our dreams and discover what is sacred in our lives.

In her book, A Voice of Her Own, Marlene A. Schiwy talks about the healing dimensions of journal writing: “To create wholeness in our lives is to heal ourselves …It is the attainment of wholeness of body, mind, emotions and spirit…. It (the journal) offers one place where literally and symbolically, all of the pieces of one’s life can be brought together.”

Lucia Cappaccione, author of The Well Being Journal, recognizes that physical illness can teach great lessons from within…”The most important message I learned from my disease is that the healing process is activated by a spiritual force that resides within. A journal can be a ‘living textbook’ for learning the lessons that the illness has to teach.

Researchers like James W. Pennebaker, M.D., professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, and Joshua M. Smyth, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at North Dakota State University, are proving what journal keepers have always known —  journaling is good not only for the soul, but for the body as well.

Their first studies, documented in the late l980’s, examined healthy people and journaling. Researchers found that people who write about their deepest thoughts and feelings surrounding upsetting events have stronger immunity and visit their doctors half as often as those who write only about trivial events. A study conducted by Joshua M. Smyth at the State University of New York at Stoneybrook and presented in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that writing about a stressful experience reduces physical symptoms in patients with chronic illnesses. The research team monitored 112 patients with arthritis or asthma. The subjects were asked to write in a journal for 20 minutes three days in a row.  They were allowed to choose whether to write about an emotionally stressful incident or their plans for the day. 

Of the group who wrote about their anxiety, 50% showed a large improvement in their disease after four months. Only 25% of patients who wrote on neutral topics showed any relief of symptoms.  “More importantly,” says Pamela M. Peeke, MD, MPH, ISPA Medical Advisor, “22% of the people who only wrote about their daily plans worsened substantially over the four-month period, while only 4% of those who wrote about their stressful events did so.” She adds, “One of the least studied techniques so commonly taught in spas is journaling. Now, there is intriguing evidence that journaling has a direct impact upon the status of chronic disease.”

Journal writing has no risk factors …neither mental nor financial.  It has the potential to provide the gentlest and safest of therapies. No expertise is required to journalize, no minimum time required, and you don’t lose the benefits if you miss a time period.


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