The world lost two influential literary voices this week. Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing, best known for her novel The Golden Notebook, passed away Sunday at age 94. And Barbara Park, author of the beloved children’s books featuring her irascible character Junie B. Jones, died Friday after a long battle with ovarian cancer. Park was 66.
While it may not seem that these two very different authors have a lot in common, what Park and Lessing shared was a love of vocal women as well as sense of appreciation for life and its transient nature. Park captured what few writers for children manage to do successfully: the energy and curiosity of a girl with a questioning mind. For her part, Lessing was always adjusting the lens. As we get older, the clarity of a Junie B. Jones is harder to maintain, but Lessing asks us to remember, and to seek the authentic in an often exhausting world.
I wonder what Junie B. and Lessing might have to say to each other:
I don’t know about you, but when I go to bed at night, my brain goes into Super Worry Overdrive. I worry about my bills, my kids, my first drafts (like Anne Lamott, I am afraid someone will find my unedited work and will assume I have committed suicide when I realized my talent was gone).
One of my favorite Tumblr’s, This Isn’t Happiness, recently posted a list of things very intelligent people worry about. Spoiler Alert: Whether they can continue to continue paying for HBO is not on the list. I had to look up some of the things they worry about. Suddenly, whether my cats need therapy or not (they do) is not as pressing. Apparently, I, and you, have more troubling things to keep us on edge:
- The proliferation of Chinese eugenics. – Geoffrey Miller, evolutionary psychologist.
- Black swan events, and the fact that we continue to rely on models that have been proven fraudulent. – Nassem Nicholas Taleb
- That we will be unable to defeat viruses by learning to push them beyond the error catastrophe threshold. – William McEwan, molecular biology researcher
- That pseudoscience will gain ground. – Helena Cronin, author, philospher
- That the age of accelerating technology will overwhelm us with opportunities to be worried. – Dan Sperber, social and cognitive scientist
- Genuine apocalyptic events. The growing number of low-probability events that could lead to the total devastation of human society. – Martin Rees, former president of the Royal Society
- The decline in science coverage in newspapers. – Barbara Strauch, New York Times science editor
- Exploding stars, the eventual collapse of the Sun, and the problems with the human id that prevent us from dealing with them. — John Tooby, founder of the field of evolutionary psychology
- That the internet is ruining writing. – David Gelernter, Yale computer scientist
- That smart people—like those who contribute to Edge—won’t do politics. –Brian Eno, musician
- That there will be another supernova-like financial disaster. –Seth Lloyd, professor of Quantum Mechanical Engineering at MIT
- That search engines will become arbiters of truth. —W. Daniel Hillis,
Though English is generally considered to contain the most words of any language in the world, appropriating vocabulary from all over, there are times when those many words simply fail us. Like having no single word to describe the intense “vicarious embarrassment” you feel when watching an episode of “Girls.” If only we were Finnish–there’d be a term for that.
Below is that word plus 13 others that lack an English equivalent. Now if only we could pronounce them all, then we could take them for our own like the entitled English speakers we are! Unless of course you can think up your own alternate names for these situations. If you’re that creative, please do share with us in a comment!
1. Shemomedjamo (Georgian)
You know when you’re really full, but your meal is just so delicious, you can’t stop eating it? The Georgians feel your pain. This word means, “I accidentally ate the whole thing.”
2. Pelinti (Buli, Ghana)
Your friend bites into a piece of piping hot pizza, then opens his mouth and sort of tilts his head around while making an “aaaarrrahh” noise. The Ghanaians have a word for that. More specifically, it means “to move hot food around in your mouth.”
3. Layogenic (Tagalog)
Remember in Clueless when Cher describes someone as “a full-on Monet… from far away, it’s OK, but up close it’s a big old mess”? That’s exactly what this word means.
4. Rhwe (Tsonga, South Africa)
College kids, relax. There’s actually a word for “to sleep on the floor without a mat, while drunk and naked.”
5. Zeg (Georgian)
It means “the day after tomorrow.” Seriously, why don’t we have a word for that in English?
6. Pålegg (Norweigian)
Sandwich Artists unite! The Norwegians have a non-specific descriptor for anything — ham, cheese, jam, Nutella, mustard, herring, pickles, Doritos, you name it — you might consider putting into a sandwich.
7. Lagom (Swedish)
Maybe Goldilocks was Swedish? This slippery little word is hard to define, but means something like, “Not too much, and not too little, but juuuuust right.”
8. Tartle (Scots)
The nearly onomatopoeic word for that panicky hesitation just before you have to introduce someone whose name you can’t quite remember.
9. Koi No Yokan (Japanese)
The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall in love.
10. Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego)
This word captures that special look shared between two people, when both are wishing that the other would do something that they both want, but neither want to do.
11. Fremdschämen (German); Myötähäpeä (Finnish)
The kinder, gentler cousins of Schadenfreude, both these words mean something akin to “vicarious embarrassment.” Or, in other words, that-feeling-you-get-when-you-watch-Meet the Parents.
12. Cafune (Brazilian Portuguese)
Leave it to the Brazilians to come up with a word for “tenderly running your fingers through your lover’s hair.”
13. Greng-jai (Thai)
That feeling you get when you don’t want someone to do something for you because it would be a pain for them.
14. Kaelling (Danish)
You know that woman who stands on her doorstep (or in line at the supermarket, or at the park, or in a restaurant) cursing at her children? The Danes know her, too.
Source: mental floss