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More to words than meets the eye

Dr Airdre Grant
Dr Airdre Grant

I AM having a wee moment of wordsmith bliss. It started when I read the output of The Rolling Stones described as sprezzatura. This gorgeous Italian word means "a certain nonchalance that makes whatever you do look as if achieved without industry. A display of effortless accomplishment, one which hides the true hard graft behind it.”

Perhaps we should all be a little more sprezzatura and display more nonchalance. I could do that, she said nonchalantly. I will now strike a nonchalant pose.

I knew the first place to look was the German vocabulary. This culture has some beauties. Take, for example, zeitgeist (spirit of the age), the word schadenfreude (enjoyment of others misfortune) or weltschmerz (world pain - depression and sadness caused by the state of the world). Then there's: sitzpinkler (man who urinates sitting down), schattenparker (insisting on parking your car in the shadow so it doesn't get hot), kummerspeck (grief bacon, the food you eat when feeling blue and/or sorry for yourself) and ohrwurm (ear worm, that pesky song that sticks in your head).

Some words are tricky. Do you know the difference between your angst and your ennui? I thought not. Luckily for you I will explain: Angst: this word used to mean a kind of general anxiety, but of late has come to mean brooding and inner turmoil. Ennui could mean boredom and a feeling of not knowing what to do with yourself, however it too has developed layers and now implies dissatisfaction with a hint of self-indulgent posturing. Now don't confuse these and don't muddle them with your weltschmerz.

Language is great. Take the word gay. Hasn't that moved along in the last 10 years? It has had three meanings that I know of (fun/homosexual/stupid). What about that lovely Kiwi word munted (wrecked, damaged)? Do you know the difference between a good egg and a bad egg, or even just an egg as in "you are being an egg” (I'm not talking foodstuffs here). I offer this lovely Australian sentence which I am sure you will understand."Garn out this arvie to get big mobs of chrissy pressies for the rellies, not too exy, I hope.” There we go.

One of the most brilliant expressions of Aussiedom I have ever heard, was at a Rolling Stones concert when an over excited patron yelled at the top of his voice: "Go you good things.”

Everyone laughed. Bunch of eggs.


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