Best words in every language I (should) know

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When dealing with any culture in the world, we can assume we become really acquainted with them only in the moment we learn the relative language. A language is much more than a way to communicate, it is the “mirror of the society”, as we say in Italy, since it contains the psychology of a country, the way local people reason and their attitude toward life. On the other hand, when one becomes acquainted with a language,  the ability to pay attention to the sound of the words is lost, as we are much more concentrated on the meaning, with the unavoidable consequence of forgetting about the music which is intrinsic into the words. For this reason, when speaking about Italian, I really enjoy reading this series of posts by Ishita: being in the process of learning my language, she is still able to recognize the sound of the words, which, as a native speaker, I automatically overlook all the time (thanks Ishita!)

One thing is sure, though: every language is fascinating and today I will try to list the words I like the most in every language I’m familiar with.

Central Venetian

As I explained in my series of 100 Italian Facts (day 99), the majority of people in my country is diglossic. Diglossia is a particular condition in which a community commonly uses two languages: one for the ordinary conversations in everyday life (in my case Venetian) and the other for the formal situations (in my case Italian). I think we can affirm that Central Venetian is my first language, the one of my roots, even though here we grow up learning local languages and Italian simultaneously.

But let’s talk about my favourite Venetian words:

  • Ciao

You think I am joking, right? That’s the most Italian of words, you’d think. Well, actually “Ciao” was born in Venice and was later adopted all over the country (and all over the world nowadays!). Its original form was actually “s’ciao” which basically means “[I’m your] slave”. Not very flattering, but hey, you know how referential they were in the good old days.

  • Bagigio

Bagigio is “arachide” in Italian and “peanut” in English. This is a word that other Italians who don’t live in Veneto find adorable for its sound. In fact it is often used also as a pet name, eheh. I have lately found out that bagigio derived from the Arab. Venetian merchants probably imported this kind of nuts from the Arabic world and they adopted the name as well.

I’m so glad I have chosen two “international” words for such a small reality like Veneto!

Italian

  • Bambino

This one dates back at the time when I was staying in Ireland after high school to learn English and I shared a flat with two Spanish girls. At the time we hooked up with a group of students from all over Europe and when talking to other fellow Italians in our own language, I often caught my flatmates staring at us with dreamy eyes. They said we sounded “melodic” and they could spend hours listening to us speaking 😀 In one occasion one of my flatmates said to me how she loved the Italian word “bambino” (child), since she thought it sounded perfect to indicate a small human being. I thought she was right and since then “bambino” probably is my favourite Italian word.

  • Strapiombante

I’m a keen reader of mountaineering literature and thanks to this kind of books I came across the word “strapiombante” (overhanging). Strapiombante is not commonly used by people, in fact, when you’re talking about a vertiginous rock face, you usually prefer parete vertiginosa to parete strapiombante. But I’ve come to love strapiombante, it gives more the idea of the peril and the void below. In fact strapiombante contains the word piombo, which is the metal lead, and so it gives you the idea of what happens if you fall from that rock side: you precipitate like lead. That’s the Italian in me, guys, we like to be dramatic and this stands also for the vocabulary 😀

English

  • Bliss

I haven’t a single doubt about my favourite English word, it is surely bliss. When Muse’s album Origin of Simmetry came out, I was still trying to enlarge my poor English vocabulary and I remember I had to look up the meaning of this Bliss title song, since I had not idea what the hell it was. Once I learned what it meant, I was fascinated and I thought it was one of the cases in which signifier and meaning coincided. Moreover, I can’t help but “hear” the song when this word comes up.

German

  • Unheimlich and Wortschatz

In terms of vocabulary, German surely is a fascinating language. Besides the classic concept of Heimat and its derived words ( I particularly like unheimlich, meaning eerie but literary suggesting the concept of not feeling at home), I really love Wortschatz, translated as lexicon, but literary meaning treasure of words.

I couldn’t end this kind of post with a better word, I think.


What are your favourite words?Tell me in a comment, I’m really curious 😉

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22 thoughts on “Best words in every language I (should) know

  1. This is an excellent first read of the day, I’ll be thinking in words all day now. 😀 I mean about words!

    First of all, extremely well done for coming from “bliss” to your current state of English in such a relatively short time.

    I love words and languages and get around in quite a few of them. Let’s have a look at some of the words.

    In English my favourite words are definitely “appreciate” and “apologise”, purely for the way they roll off my tongue.

    In Italian I love “finocchio” (probably just for the Pinocchio rhyme) and love to say “tutto a posto” because I love it when all is well. 🙂

    In my native Slovenian there are some cute weird words I like such as “čmrlj” meaning bumble-bee or “midva” meaning the two of us (Slovenian is one of the rare languages with dual case).

    Spanish is full of singsong words such as caracal and I love it how they call each other “cabrón”.

    That video in which tender German words such as “Schmetterling” are compared with other languages and said as military commands to show the brutality of German language is killing me. 😀 😀

    And to finish off with my very favourite Greek words, even though I don’t speak it, but they have often saved me on my travels. 😉 Psomi, psari, krasi. Bread, fish, wine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Oh well, that was not a short time, but I definitely made a huge step, the moment I went to Ireland and I spoke with locals and then when I started to use the Internet to watch interviews of my favourite band and read articles about them, ihih.

      Great words!! The only one I don’t like is finocchio, because I hate to eat it XD

      Haha, Schmetterling kills me 😂 This meme makes me die from laughter every time 😂😂 https://img.memecdn.com/oh
      -schmetterling_o_1154579.jpg

      I don’t speak Spanish, but I have relatives from Argentina and I have picked up some words from them (when we have to communicate they speak in Spanish and we speak in Italian and we understand each others 😂) It’s true they have a lot of singsong words!

      I love the concept of midva!❤ Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hihih, oh yes, that’s the Schmetterling. 😀 And I love it how you learnt the language. It’s always something, either a band or a lover. 😉 Interesting that you can understand each other in Spanish and Italian. I was learning Spanish for four years in high school and I can see now that the vocabulary is vastly different from the Italian, but the grammar is pretty similar.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Eheh, true true, you need a strong motivation 😉

        You know what? It’s unbelievable how similar Venetian and Spanish are, to be honest! And also, you know, there are tons and TONS of Italian descendents in South America, so maybe they mixed the languages. Actually in Brazil there’s a language called Talian, which is some sort of Venetian-Portuguese and it’s also officially recognized, I think! Venetians went all over the world, really.

        You should see our conversations on Skype with my Argentinian relatives, though…it’s a Tower of Babel kind of scenario, lol. But we do understand each others, it’s ilarious.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s funny that you should mention “Ciao!”, I’ve always had special feelings for equivalents of “farewell”, “au revoir”, “sayonara”. My favourite English word? “Moment”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My favourite Italian word is ‘rincoglionito/a’ because I can’t find a satisfactory equivalent in English and it is such a useful description. I often want to say it ‘cos I can’t find another word for it. Also “giro” (as in go for a giro, and “in giro”) – such a handy word, and “salto” (as in fare un salto): no satisfying alternatives in English at all….
    In English, off the top of my head, I am fond of “shambolic” and “frisky”…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As an Italian I have to say that I cannot find in languages other than Italian and Venetian satisfying equivalents for swearwords 😅 We can be quite creative when inventing words for expressing frustration or offending people 😅😅 Rincoglionito is a great pick 😂

      I didn’t know shambolic, it sounds great to indicate something chaotic! Thanks for sharing ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha it is not difficult for European to read Vietnamese, because we use the Latin alphabet. But speaking might be a bit challenging 🙂
        Instead some keywords, I can teach you some words that might be useful for youwhen you are in Vietnam 😉 Let’s see:
        – xin chào: hello
        – cám ơn: thanks
        – tính tiền: the bill please!
        – ngon: delicious
        – mắc quá: too expensive!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Aw, thank you! Wow, I love grazie also in Vietnamese, it looks like “come on” 😄
        Yeah, I’ve seen you use the Latin alphabet, but I’ve noticed symbols above the letters? They’re peculiar.

        Like

      3. Haha they are the emphasis. According to Dictionary.com, they are “special and significant stress of voice laid on particular words or syllables”. In Chinese, you have four emphasis. But in Vietnamese, you have six 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I see! I could recognize some of them, but I had never seen the first emphasis in “mac qua” for example (the one above the first “a”). Thanks for explaining!

        Like

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  5. For Italian, I do love “vabbè”, and try to use it as much as possible, even in circumstances that are probably a bit too formal. I don’t know if I love them, but I have a love/hate relationship with “ormai” and “addosso”, because for the longest time (and kind of still) I couldn’t work out what they mean and when they should be used.

    For German, “backpfeifengesicht” is an exceptional word (“a face crying out for a fist in it”), and I always remember in the very early days of learning German, in one of the very early lessons, we were taught “krankenversicherungskarte”… the term for a medical insurance card we weren’t even eligible for! Naturally that stuck with me when the rest of my German abandoned me.

    I’ll also add Hebrew, “sababa” which is a slang term which sort of means “ok”. How are you? “Ani sababa” (I’m cool/I’m good). It’s an inherently friendly-sounding word.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great picks!
      Yeah, I bet “ormai” can be very tricky for a foreigner. It really depends on the context: it can be “by now”, “after all” or it can indicate something which is happening too late (“ormai è troppo tardi”/ it’s too late for that”…ormai sort of emphasize this concept of “late” ). I guess it is one of those words you learn to use only by memorizing the entire sentence that goes with it.

      Oh wow, I have to check this Backpfeifengesicht o_O

      Ani sababa! I love it, a friendly-sounding word, indeed!

      Like

  6. I’d have trouble coming up with a favorite word, but I’ll share a word I learned yesterday while eating an orange in Reggio Calabria: sbrodolare. The juice was running down my wrist and a friend captured it with this word with “brodo” in its midst. I thought that there wasn’t an English equivalent and when I looked it up later, I found “dribble,” which may capture the usage in reference to an old man slurping a bowl of soup, but “sbrodolare” really gave me the sense of what was actually happening with the juice from that succulent piece of fruit.

    Liked by 1 person

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