In keeping with the theme of our annual “Think Global” issue, I went in search of foreign-language words and phrases related to cross-cultural coping in This Pandemic Life. Here are a few new phrasebook entries I discovered on my quick lexical trip around the globe, er, the Google.
Andrà tutto bene: As the entire world braces to withstand another frightening surge in coronavirus cases, we should take heart in this comforting phrase that has become something of an incantation in Italy during the pandemic. Emblazoned on banners and ubiquitously shared on social media, it reassures us, simply, that “Everything will be alright.”
Boketto: Less pejorative than “zoning out,” this Japanese word describes a prolonged, unseeing, vacant gaze into the far-off distance, as you contemplate … nothing at all … whatsoever … … … Sorry, what was I just saying?
Cwtch: This adorable word-concept blends together a connotation of a snug cubbyhole with the Welsh word for a cuddle. When you give your child a cwtch, you create a safe physical embrace that will make them feel utterly cherished and protected from harm in the world. We all could use some cwtches and kisses right now.
Friluftsliv: Step aside, hygge! There’s a new Scandinavian term in town, courtesy of the hardy Nordic nationals who live (and play) according to a saying any Pacific Northwesterner worth their fleece can get behind: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” Roughly translated as “open-air living,” friluftsliv is a prescription for habitual outdoor adventuring for all ages in all weather. (Not convinced? Consult this month's Out + About feature, “Foul-Weather Fun Is Good for Your Kids.”)
Kummerspeck: A German word that literally translates as “grief bacon,” kummerspeck is the culprit of the weight many of us have gained during the pandemic due to emotional overeating. Sometimes you just have to feed those feelings, and I personally concur that the feeling of inescapable lockdown boredom can be a bottomless pork-product pit.
Samfundssind: An early contender for official coronation as Denmark’s word of the year by the Danish Language Council (2019’s winner was klimatosse — “climate idiot”), samfundssind is defined as “putting the concerns of society higher than one’s own self-interest.” This long-mothballed term reemerged in 2020 as the buzzword of the coronavirus crisis for Danes, characterizing the social-minded spirit of goodwill and personal accountability that translated early on into national solidarity in response to the pandemic.
Hugs-that-are-havens, therapeutic space-outs, nature Rx for what ails us (jump in 10 puddles and call me in the morning), immoderate comfort snacking and widespread enlightened community caretaking? Just imagine what a wonderful world it could be in 2021.