Tuesday, June 19, 2012


He seems trustworthy enough
"No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody or something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest levels it grades into ennui, boredom."
― Vladimir Nabokov

Do you know what this feels like? I was stumbling around the interwebs, looking for the languages of the world which have words for "shades of love." In English (the only language worth speaking...DUH) we have one word for "love."  It's "love." We're practical and efficient that way. We love cheeseburgers and a joke as much we love our children and American Idol. It's all the same.

Other languages recognize the nuance of feelings that emanate from the chest and deep brain area, but we don't care about them. Love is love. 

Then there's "toska"....I LOVE this word: toska. I know this feeling, and it's expansive and huge. Nabokov's description is everything I've ever felt without a word to describe it.

I feel toksa like this: I'm homesick while I'm sitting in my own living room. I'm desperate for my love when he's right next to me. I'm filled with a vague melancholia and malaise, from which nothing can shake me. Never before could I say, "I feel toskish." (Full disclosure: I have no clue if I can currently actually SAY toskish, because that might not be a word, but I'm gonna start saying it anyway.)

So while I love people in all different ways (with passion, with deep attachment, with fury, with a lifelong commitment to what was, or with semantic appreciation and mental craving) I also love dessert, my children, one of my dogs and my phone...dear God, I love my phone. Now, however, I know how to describe the feelings I feel when I'm walking around and nothing is right. Where my woefully inept language (still number one though!) falls short, Russian really nails it. 

Good thing, too....I'm wildly popular in Russia.

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