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John Koenig's Discussion of Language Highlights Obscure Emotional Words

By: Joey Haar - May 13, 2017
References: youtube
Words open up a universe of expressive possibilities, but they also limit and control thought in interesting ways, and John Koenig's discussion of language looks at those checks and balances. He opens up the discussion by quickly listing a few words with no comparison in English: "lachesism" is an ancient Greek word that means a desire for disaster, and "zielschmerz" is a German word that refers to the impending dread one feels after having accomplished a significant goal.

Koenig soon reveals that the two words above and the others he mentions aren't real at all -- he made them up for a fictional dictionary designed to label obscure emotions. Nonetheless, the lessons that can be gleaned from them are important.

Phrases like the two above, and countless others from various languages, are immediately identifiable emotions, no matter one's native tongue. However, an inability to express them in a concise way has the perverse side effect of limit the actual experience; hypothetical Germans are more likely than hypothetical Americans to recognize the feeling of zielschmerz simply because they could quickly label it. Giving voice to these emotions is essential in bringing like-minded people together to make them feel like they're part of a community.