Words—just words

This is where I list some of my favourite words and phrases. I think of them like stones found on a beach. Some are recent discoveries, while others are treasures I've cherished for decades.

Babushka: (Russian). Old woman. Such a vivd word that I used only with deep respect. It brings to mind a poor woman wearing a chin-tied headscarf. I imagine gold teeth, mismatched clothes and absolute wisdom etched upon the crease-lines of her face.

Brotloße Kunst: (German). Derogatory description for the pursuit of art. Literally means "bread-less art."

Carapace: A tough exterior to protect soft insides.  Think: bike helmets or turtle shells. But, it can also apply to ways we protect emotional vulnerabilities. 

Flüchtling: (German). Refugee. I grew up inside a German immigrant community here in Canada where people were defined by the term Flüchtling or Reichsdeutscher.  I had one of each as parents.  A bit confusing for a kid born in Canada.

Gefangenschaft: (German). Prison. Yes, both my parents had been prisoners. For me, as a child, this meant Russian prison, rats, coal mines and hunger.  As a kid, it just meant that Canada was a better place. 

Gobsmacked: A feeling of shock. Often leaves one speechless. Always unexpected.  

Insouciant: A casual lack of concern. Good word for describing dictators like Stalin or Hitler. Discovered it recently while reading Laurence Rees' 2021 book, Hitler and Stalin.

Kaffeeklatsch: (German). A get-together over coffee. Good place to show off baking,  Sammeltassen and share gossip. 

Klimbim: German word for junk. Re-discovered it while reading Walter Kempowski's Mark und Bein. (on page 201 in the Penguin edition). I can just hear my mother saying it. "Es ist alles nur Klimbim."

Natschalnick or nachal'nik or hachal'nik:  (Russian) Means leader or boss in Russian. It was how my mom and other Germans referred to their Soviet superiors. 

Sammeltassen: (German) Collection of mismatched teacups and saucers. 

Schadenfreude: A German word used by English speakers. Means joy at another's pain.

Sehnsucht: (German) A yearning sort of like homesickness without a cure. Sailors have Sehnsucht for the sea, and then at sea they have Sehnsucht for land. It might be one of my most favourite words. 

Starosta: (Slavic): female term for a leader (male form: starost). My mom said they called her the starosta while in the Ural POW camp because she was older and could speak Russian. As a child, I thought of the word meant she was a 'star' and liked thinking that she could have once been such a bright little light.

Taphophile: Someone interested in graveyards and headstones. (Who knew there was a name for this!)

Vergangenheitsbewältigung(German) 25 letters long! The struggle of coming to understand an unpleasant past. (Modern Germany dealing with its Second World War guilt.) Something I'm been trying to do with my own stories created from family's history. 

Verwandschaft: (German)" Relatives. I didn't have any around while growing up. They were either dead somewhere in Russia, my dad's broken family in Schleswig-Holstein, or my mom's sisters in BC. We did visit BC a few times, but those cousins were more like strangers to me. 

Wanzen:  (German) This is a word my mom used when I was growing up and I could never figure out she meant.  I grew up before there was Google. Anyway, Wanzen are bedbugs. And they ruined many a sleep for many a gulag inhabitant.

Zinsen: (German) I grew hearing this word about as often as the Wanzen.  Zinzen were bad. But I was an adult before I figured out that Zinsen were interest payments on debt. It seemed my mom hated Zinsen as much as Wanzen

No comments:

Recent Posts

The Fabric of a Community: a tribute to Bev Morton

June 6th would have been Bev Morton’s 74th birthday.  In her honour an opening reception was held to celebrate her art at The Studio of La M...