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Netflix and chill?

Language of love
in Language Connect

Since the beginning of time, humans have found unique and profound words to express their love for one another, and often, the gamut of emotions that come as part of the package, including euphoria, rage, longing and even the German word ‘Kummerspeck’ (worry-bacon from emotional binge eating). In fact, the most noticeable words in global languages relate to the complexities of love, reflecting unique cultural and social situations which may be difficult to translate into other languages and societies.

In our Valentine’s blog last year, we looked at what it is that makes a language romantic, and it was hardly a surprise that our team members and readers voted French as the most romantic language in the world.  Some of the classic French expressions such as ‘retrouvailles’ (the joy of reunion) and ‘la douleur exquise’ (the exquisite pain of pursuing someone you can’t have) embody the passion and drama associated with the French language and perhaps, its people.  The Arabic (Lebanese) ‘Tuqburni’  (you bury me) and Turkish ‘Kara sevda’ (black love) leave the French trailing behind when it comes to drama, expressing love that is potentially life-limiting and blinding.

But other languages have unique expressions, which depending on your approach to romance and love, may or may not be your cup of tea;

Koi No Yokan’ in Japanese takes ‘love at first sight’ to a level deeper; this is not a blink-of-the-eye crush, it is the knowledge that it is inevitable that two people will fall in love. The Japanese are very meticulous and tempered, even in the pursuits of the heart.

Some more dubious expressions, such as ‘Prozvonit’ – Czech (referring to calling someone for one ring, so they call you back and pay for the call) was probably coined before the advent of free call minutes and VoIP communication.  Similarly, the Inuit word ‘Iktsuarpok’ (anticipating the arrival of someone at your house) is probably more relevant in a snow-covered community than other more accessible locations.

Cavoli riscaldati’ – Italian, describes the rekindling of a failed relationship as ‘reheated cabbage’ and anyone who has tried that would probably agree with this food-based metaphor.

Bakku-shan’ in Japanese refers to a girl who is only beautiful from behind and ‘Layogenic’ in Tagalog similarly refers to someone attractive from afar until you then see them up close. Hardly romantic, but nevertheless part of the process of finding that one true love.  Other expressions such as ‘Cafuné’ – Portuguese for running your fingers through someone’s hair and ‘Oodal’ – Tamil for fake sulking after a minor argument are fabulous indicators of social convention and the physical language of love.

The infinitely more liberal Northern Europeans take this a few steps further with actual verbs such as Fensterln – German for sneaking in through the window and the Dutch ‘Queesting’, inviting someone to bed for pillow talk. Emotionally laden language is highly reflective of the culture within which it resides. So it is no surprise that the younger generation has come up with ‘Netflix and chill’, a 21st-century urban English euphemism for hanky-panky in front of the TV. It manages to incorporate zeitgeist branding and the commitment-phobic angst of a multi-screen generation where courting is often casual and a social media enterprise.  It could not get much less romantic than that – it’s dreadful.  So instead, we look to our classics on this Valentine’s Day and leave you with these final, yet simple, words that translate into any language:

“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”

― Dr. Seuss

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