What I Learned about Gheegle

I’m rethinking everything I assumed about emotions thanks to one of my current favorite reads, How Emotions are Made by Leesa Feldman Barrett. Barrett posits that emotions don’t belong to objective reality. They can’t be measured as physical phenomenon, like facial expressions ranges or EKG patterns. Emotions are purely social constructs, experiences we’ve been taught by our culture to expect.

I’m only half way through the book, but I find the power of that premise incredibly tantalizing.

But today, instead of diving deeper into Barrett’s intriguing insights, I got completely distracted by gheegle (and its cohorts).

In discussing emotions as social constructs, Barrett points out that, of course, many emotions are cross-cultural. We’re all human and share much of the same basic experience, like being bipedal and needing to eat. But Barrett reminds us just how many emotional concepts don’t translate.

For instance, there is gheegle.

Gheegle isn’t my first introduction to concepts that don’t map one to one with English. Last year I read all about hygge. I loved steeping in the idea of comfy coziness, but it took several books and a deep dive into Danish culture to even begin to appreciate the complex subtleties of hygge .

But gheegle, gheegle is something I understood immediately. I’ve been experiencing gheegle my entire life, just never had a name for it.

Gheegle (also transliterated as gigil) is the irresistible urge to hug, squeeze, or pinch something so crazy cute that you just can’t stand it. For years I’ve suffered (relished?) the pleasure that borders on pain of seeing my adorable kitty and needing to scoop him up and give him a great big hug. Thank you, Tagalog. The people of the Philippines have given me a name for one of my strongest emotional urges.

Lucky for me Barrett didn’t stop with gheegle. She had some more emotional social construct goodies:

Voorpret (Dutch): pleasure in anticipating an upcoming event
Age-otori (Japanese): feeling like you look worse after a haircut

Once I’d read these, productivity for the day was derailed. If, like me, you’re tickled by these delightful words, for which no equivalent exists in English, check out the links below. It’s Friday. You’re welcome.

Bored Panda: a lovely illustrated article that includes the haunting German word, Torchlusspanik (dread of decreasing opportunities as one ages).

Lonely Planet: a fun list of foreign concepts and emotions, among which my favorite was pisan zapra (Malay), the time needed to eat a banana.

(Shibu Inu photo credit)

Scandinavian Summer

A story of summer and winter has haunted me since I was a little girl. One afternoon our elementary class gathered for an assembly in the school gymnasium. The occasion, meeting a real, live author. He promised to read us an historical fiction story that he had written, himself. I was at the edge of my seat.

He read us the story of a boy who ignores his parents’ admonition to leave his beloved puppy safe at home. Instead, the boy smuggles the puppy in his coat pocket, bringing him on an expedition to the lake, where he and his big brothers harvest ice for the farm ice house. I’m sad to say the puppy met an unfortunate end at the bottom of the icy lake. The story ends with the little boy eating ice cream the following summer, made from ice that was collected the day he lost his best friend.

The name of the author who chose *that* story for the elementary assembly, is lost in the mists of time.  But the idea of winter saved up in the ice house of our hearts, to later chill our summer, has never left me.

Now that I’m grown up, and can choose books that don’t involve drowned doggies, I enjoy going on reading adventures to learn about different parts of the world. This January our household did a deep dive on hygge, the art of Danish-style wellbeing and happiness. Reading about comfy socks and candles made us feel cuddly and cozy all through January and February.

The Little Book of Hygge excited us with fun suggestions to bring hygge to our home, even though we’re not lucky enough to live in Denmark. One  hygge idea was Danish music. Lucky me, Wiking specified some artists to explore. That was the first time I searched Apple Music for Agnes Obel.

As spring faded into summer, our hygge candles were still flickering, but we’d lost enthusiasm for wool socks, and I had completely forgotten about Agnes Obel.

Then one hot day, as I was dusting to GooglePlay radio, this cool, dreamy, yet deeply engaging sound made me cast aside my dust rag and race for the iPad. Who was the originator of this enchanting, icy music?

Agnes Obel.

Citizen of Glass is sadly sweet, soothing and intriguing at the same time. It’s like entering Narnia to find that it’s winter, preserving a snowball in the freezer for summer. Or like crunching a chip of ice that has survived to the Fourth of July in a prarie-era ice house.

My Scandinavian summer hasn’t been all about the Danish songstress. I’m on a Swedish author reading kick, too. I just finished The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, and I’ve just started The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Both these books have been full of intrigue. But, thank goodness, there are no puppies or icy lakes.