These are very surreal times we’re living in right now. Events around coronavirus have moved so quickly, and at such a dramatic pace, it’s hard to find the words that capture the sheer enormity of what’s happening.
We’re also stumped for words when it comes to the small, incidental details of our new lockdown lives. How can we possibly describe that newfound and rather passionate attachment we’re all feeling to our threadbare sofas? Or that woozy moment at the end of the evening when we’ve overloaded on wine/Netflix/games of Scrabble but aren’t sure where to turn next?
That’s where the wonderful world of foreign languages comes in handy.
Following on from the resurgence of the Finnish phrase “Kalsarikännit” – meaning to get drunk home alone in one’s underwear – modern languages graduate Tasman Hogan has picked out a number of other untranslatable phrases that chime exactly with our experiences of lockdown.
They’re the type of casual sayings that are imbedded within the cultural identities of different nations around the world, but which have no direct meaning in English. Despite this, they manage to brilliantly convey the reality of what we’re going through right now. Here are three of the most relatable phrases picked out by Tasman on her blog:
The one for lounging around
If the lockdown has awakened a sudden enthusiasm for daily fitness within us, it has also – paradoxically – made sofa sloths of us all. Never before have we been quite so emotionally tied to our futons, using them for work, Zoom calls, Amazon Prime marathons and so much more. And somehow, even when we’re not doing anything at all, we still find it hard to part ways. The sofa-bound struggle is real.
This state of being is what might be referred to as “fiaca” in Argentina. The term comes from a slang language that emerged in 19th Century Argentina and describes “the feeling or state of being bored, idle, slothful of unmotivated”.
For example, you might say, “Qué fiaca que tengo!” meaning “Man, I feel like a slug today!” Sounds familiar, non?
The one for texting your ex
We’ve all been there. You’re three Negronis down and scrolling through your phone, when suddenly a post from your ex pops up. That gets you thinking: is now the time to reach out? We’re all bored and thinking of what went before, right? It might be exactly the point to pop up and see whether you two really did have something going after all.
If you’re heading down this rabbit hole, beware the Italian phrase “cavoli riscaldati”. Literally defined as “reheated cabbage”, it means “a pointless attempt to revive a former love affair”.
Apparently an old proverb using the term goes, “Cavoli riscaldati né amore ritornato non fu mai buono” meaning “neither reheated cabbage nor revived love is ever any good.”
Something to bear in mind the next time your hand itches to speed-dial the one that got away.
The one for drinking too much
The stress of being in confinement these pass few weeks may well mean you are hitting the wine a bit more enthusiastically than you should.
And because you’re well aware of this fact, you might be entering into a weird, conflicting state where you fancy more booze even when you’ve easily had too much already.
If this rings true for you, the Russians know where you’re at. “Nedoperepil” is a past tense verb used “to say that someone has drunk more than they should have, but still less than they could have (or wanted to)”.
Or to put it another way, “to have too much to drink, but to be unsatisfied and want to drink more” (literally, “to underoverdrink”).
For example, if someone points out you’re probably knocking it back too fast, you might say, “Но я же недоперепил!” meaning “But I haven’t yet drunk as much as I can!”
If you’re saying this, it may be your cue to stop. But still, a brilliant word to nail that interim point of drunkenness. And with that, we’re off to channel a little fiaca – that sofa is looking a bit lonely by itself, after all.