Two Words That Don't Exist In English And One That Absolutely Should
I love learning new words. English words are fantastic, but I also enjoy words from other languages, especially words that we have no standard English counterpart for.
I was on the phone with my friend the other day and he told me about two awesome ones he discovered that I hadn’t heard of:
1. FLANEUR - French - literally, an idler or lounger, but now used as a traveler who goes out with no hard plan of sightseeing.
This has a positive connotation, that the tourist is a generalist and has an interested nature. A “passionate wanderer”. It may or may not be a reaction to the type of tourist many Americans are, where everything has to be on an exact schedule. As I understand it, you want to be seen as a flaneur.
Another one he told me that he heard in Singapore:
1. KIASU - Chinese - which is literally a fear of death but not in the way you’d think. It’s more of a fear of missing out while you’re alive.
This is how it was explained to him, and how he explained it to me. A woman was walking through a part of the city she normally wasn’t in and she sees a long line starting to form. The Kiasu hits her and she jumps in line. Because had she passed it by and wondered what it was about later it would have been awful. (it turned out to be a line for the opening of a new McDonalds so she jumped out).
Kiasu has a negative connotation, apparently, and has migrated into a common criticism, like “that person is so kiasu.” Meaning they’re kind of base and selfish and grasping and overly competitive.
Here’s a video I found which might help. (I warn you, in advance. I have attended funerals I enjoyed more than this video, but you’ll get the gist.)
And the last one I promise you’ve never heard of. Because it doesn’t exist in ‘Murican.
3. English: The word for a heterosexual, committed, monogamous unmarried adult relationship.
Mate? That’s like a science word for geese who do it. Or like ‘friend’ in Australian. Oi! Mate! Snatch that VB out from under that wallaby!
Has a husband or wife right in the definition, and companion, but the companion part sounds suspicious. “Allow me to introduce my consort, Madame Cho.” By using consort, you’re basically just saying “here’s my high paid assassin.”
Oh, I know! ‘Partner.’
No. That sounds like a business arrangement. Love, sponsored by LinkedIn! Also historically it’s related to ‘life partner’ which tends to suggest a gay or lesbian couple. Maybe that distinction is unimportant these days. But I’ve had friends say they feel like they’re borrowing a term they didn’t earn. And of course, there’s also this version of ‘partner.’
Mmmmmm. Nothing spells lifelong heterosexual bliss like that picture.
There’s just no obvious word for it.
Kurt and Goldie have been together, unmarried for thirty-two years. And there’s no word for it.
Doesn’t that seem odd in 2016?
You’re a couple. A long term, committed couple in your thirties or forties or fifties and you have kids and have spent your life together without opting to have it sanctified in the eyes of the church or the state. You just wake up and choose to be together every day. No rings. No documents, no yoke of any kind.
There is no one term where you say it and everyone clearly knows the situation like saying ‘wife’ or ‘husband.’ We know what a ‘widow’ or ‘widower’ is. We know what a ‘mistress’ is! We know what a ‘baby mama’ is! We have decided to apply a label to ‘DInKs.’ We know, very clearly, what a MILF is. But how are you forced to introduce your ‘significant other’ (probably the closest term but as seedy as ‘lover’ and too damn long to say)?
This is my ‘boyfriend.’ This is my ‘girlfriend.’
Awww! Aren’t you guys cute? Are you going to prom?
The hangup being, obviously, that if it’s not validated by either a religious ceremony or a local government, then technically the couple is just in an extended holding pattern of ‘dating.’ But I see more and more examples of people not feeling the need to codify a relationship in anything but their own terms and having a shared agreement with a loved one is more important to them than the approbation of any organization. But if you choose that road, even if you’re with your ‘partner’ for three dozen years, in the current makeup of our language, you’re still just hanging out. You have the colloquial validity of any high school girlfriend or boyfriend.
That’s the closest thing we have right now, and that’s just sad. Let’s get a word, America. Let’s pick a word and stick to it. We don’t need to have an ‘official’ organization sanctify our choice. We can just pick something awesome and decide to go with it. For good.