What English Doesn’t Have Words For

21-anger-w710-h473Sometimes language expresses concepts, and since different cultures develop in different circumstances, other languages have words that English-speakers have no need for.  For example, I have always heard that Eskimo have many words for snow*.    I’ve found an article that highlights more of these examples, like malu, an Indonesian word for “the sudden experience of feeling constricted, inferior and awkward around people of higher status”; ilinx, French for “the ‘strange excitement’ of wanton destruction”; or torschlusspanik, German for “gate-closing panic.”

One of the most unusual is a Chinese word for anger.  Penn sinologist Victor Mair knows several Mandarin words that express anger, with his favorite being the most common, shēngqì 生气, which translates as getting mad, becoming enraged, or taking off.  The direct, literal translation is: “generate qi.”   Qi is usually translated as life force, vital energy, or intensity.  So if you take this Mandarin word literally,  you get lots more energy when angry.

While anger is an extreme emotion that frequently puts you out of control, it can, as shēngqi suggests, be put to good use.  Anger generates energy, and the key is to put the qi to a constructive purpose.

So maybe the Chinese know the best way to get mad.


The basic article can be found at  http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/11/the-chinese-word-for-anger-shows-the-best-way-to-get-mad.html? . The photo comes from this article.

* A discussion of Eskimo words is at https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/there-really-are-50-eskimo-words-for-snow/2013/01/14/e0e3f4e0-59a0-11e2-beee-6e38f5215402_story.html

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