Tiffany Watt Smith can help. I recently came across a podcast interview on the Brian Lehrer show, where Smith talked about her new book: The Book of Human Emotions: From Ambiguphobia to Umpty–154 Words From Around the World for How We Feel. (You can also find the podcast at the end of this piece.)
I loved the interview so much, I bought the book.
Below is just a sample of what you’ll find inside. Spend a little time learning these words, and it just may help you to understand emotions better. (And if you’re interested in my book, which will serve as a practical guide to building emotional intelligence and includes some great personal stories, make sure to subscribe to my free email newsletter.)
Amae (Japanese):The urge to crumple into the arms of a loved one to be coddled and comforted.
Ambiguphobia (coined by American novelist David Foster Wallace): To feel uncomfortable about leaving things open to interpretation.
Awumbuk (from the Baining people, Papua New Guinea): The feeling of heaviness and sorrow you feel after your guests have departed (and as Smith describes in the interview, a feeling of inertia, exhaustion and flatness that descends when a loved guest leaves the house).
Basorexia: The sudden urge to kiss someone.
Broodiness: Of a woman, feeling a maternal desire to have a(nother) baby (Oxford English Dictionary).
Cheesed off: A combination of boredom and anger, with the former leading to the latter.
The collywobbles: A feeling of anxiety and unease in the pit of the stomach, giving an oily, lurching sensation.
Cyberchondria: Anxiety about “symptoms” of an “illness” fueled by Internet “research” (Side note: I am the king of cyberchondria.)
Depaysement (French): The feeling of being an outsider.
Dolce far niente (Italian): The pleasure of doing nothing.
Fago (Ifaluk): A unique emotional concept that blurs the boundaries between compassion, sadness, and love. It is the pity felt for someone in need, which compels us to care for them, but it is also haunted by a strong sense that one day we will lose them.
Gezelligheid (Dutch): A particular feeling of coziness. Gezelligheid describes “both physical circumstances–being snug in a warm and homely place surrounded by good friends … and an emotional state of feeling ‘held’ and comforted.”
Greng Jai (Thai): The feeling of being reluctant to accept another’s offer of help because of the bother it would cause them.
Han (Korean): Frequently translated as sorrow, spite, rancor, regret, resentment, or grief, among many other attempts to explain a concept that has no English equivalent. Han is a difficult concept which requires an understanding of the context in which it is used. (Definition taken from Wikipedia).
“It seems to be a combination of hope and despair at the same time,” says Watt Smith. “It’s a kind of yearning for things to change, but combined with the very grim determination to see things through, even to the very bitter end.”
Hiraeth (Welsh): A deeply felt connection to one’s homeland.
Hwyl (Welsh): A feeling of exuberance; full of joy and excitement.
Ijirashii (Japanese): The sensation of being touched or moved on seeing the little guy overcome an obstacle or do something praiseworthy. (Think, the little engine that could).
Iktsuarpok (Inuit): The fidgety feeling that arises when visitors are due to arrive.
Kaukokaipuu (Finnish): The craving for a distant land. (Imagine the desperate yearning to be somewhere you’ve never even visited, or the desire to be anywhere but where you are right now.)
L’appel du vide (French: lit., “the call of the void”): The instinctive urge to jump from high places. “When you’re walking on the edge of a cliff and you get a sudden urge to jump … it is a very peculiar sensation. Most people have had this experience because it means a sudden sense that you cannot trust your own instincts.”
Litost (Czech): Notoriously difficult to translate, this term describes the feeling of “shame, resentment, and fury that lifts us off our feet when we realize another has made us feel wretched.” (Side note: This word is so rich in meaning and context, reading this chapter alone is worth the price of the book.)
Malu (Dusun Baguk people of Indonesia): The feeling of being flustered in the presence of someone we hold in high esteem.
Matutolypea: When one wakes up overcome with misery and bad temper.
Ringxiety (coined in the late 1990s by psychologist David Laramie): The phantom feeling of a phone call in one’s pocket. “Any moment of ringxiety is immediately followed by a sort of minor shame and embarrassment as you put your phone back in your pocket,” says Smith.
Torschlusspanik (German): The agitated, fretful feeling we get when we notice time is running out.
Umpty: A feeling of everything’s being “too much” and all in the wrong way.