Thursday, March 17, 2011


I attend the Unitarian Universalist church here in town. I joined about four years ago partly to give myself a new community to be involved in and partly for Mr W to get some spiritual context in his life. To each his own on the religious front, but one thing I really like about this church is its pastor and his sermons. I love leaving feeling like I've learned something. Last week he had a list of words that are hard to translate directly into English, but nevertheless have meaning.  I liked the list and Marc's descriptions so much, I'm sharing them here.

"uffda"--OOF-da--Swedish, exclamation--A word of sympathy for someone else in pain--"Ouch
for you"--You hit your thumb with a hammer--You're getting ready to move--You're being
consumed by Terry, the lovable but dangerous Great White Shark-- We shout "Uffda!"

"Rasa"--Sanskrit, noun--The mood, feeling, or sentiment evoked by a work of art, some other
entity, or an intense event--The essence of the emotion I feel in response to the essence
embedded in my experience--Marcel Proust eats a special French cookie and it triggers in him
intense memories of his past--and a really, really long novel--the essence of the cookie yields for
Proust the essence of his life's journey. "Rasa" is both a quality which inheres in an object or
event and also the inner feeling state evoked.

"yugen"--YOO-gehn (hard "g")--Japanese, noun--An awareness of the universe that
engenders emotional responses too deep and mysterious for words--We have the sense of, a
feeling for, the profundity and mystery in our lives and also in the world. Like "rasa," "yugen"
describes inner feelings more than the event or object that arouses such feelings.

"h`ozh'q"--HOE-shk--Navajo, noun--The beauty of life and the world, as seen and created by
a person--One's wealth and riches are one's stories and song, one's poems and paintings, the
various things of beauty one has created or embodied in one's life. Beauty is the full gestalt of
object, creator, and viewer. We walk and live in beauty; we end our days in beauty. "It is
finished in beauty."

"ostranenie"--ohsh-truh-NYEHN-yay--Russian, verb--To "defamiliarize" the world--In art,
literature, religion, rite or ritual, the intention to explode the ordinary, whether in an object, in
perception, or in experience, so as to revolutionize meaning. Make strange objects that are
familiar--Picasso, Emily Dickinson, William Blake, Charlie Sheen, Gertrude Stein, Andy Warhol and
the giant can of tomato soup. The exploration of light in the paintings of the Impressionists
might be seen as one example of this effort. Jesus in his parables uses reversal, irony,
unexpected metaphors and analogies to allow us to see and feel anew. In Zen this practice goes
on constantly, which might make you eventually desire to go on a long run, watch TV, or eat
crackers/ice cream/cookies-- whatever you prefer. But will cookies ever taste the same after
Zen? "I think not."


  1. What a neat list! I love words like that :)

  2. I did too. I love it when stuff like this is brought to my attention.

  3. English feels so limited at times. No wonder we steal from other languages! Great list.


Hi, sorry to make the humans do an extra step.