It’s a common occurrence – feeling an emotion so specific it is almost impossible to describe using every day words.
With emotions often categorised into a few simple and universal categories like happy, sad and angry – being unable to describe an exact feeling is something that happens everyday.
But Tiffany Watt Smith, a research fellow at the Centre for the History of the Emotions, has changed all this with her encyclopaedia of 156 emotions titled The Book of Human Emotion.
Is there a word for that? Emotions expert Tiffany Watt Smith has released a book with 156 emotions that are often felt but few know the word for
More than simple emotions: ‘I wanted to write an interesting, visual and accessible retort to the idea that feelings can be boiled down to basic and essential universal emotions,’ Ms Watt Smith said
‘I wanted to write an interesting, visual and accessible retort to the idea that feelings can be boiled down to basic and essential universal emotions and instead prove there are hundreds,’ Ms Watt Smith told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I have been looking at how emotions change over time and values, and I wanted to bring those ideas to a wider audience.’
The book contains a mixture of emotions, each with their own cultural background and story, with Ms Watt Smith hoping those who read it will discover feelings they never knew could be identified.
WHAT DOES TECHNOSTRESS,TORSCHLUSSPANIK AND RUINENLUST MEAN?
The Greek philosopher Aristotle observed that we’re more likely to fly into a violent rage when slighted by someone we perceive to be inferior to us.
In fact, he went even further, arguing that if you’ve been insulted by someone lower down in the pecking order, you are thoroughly entitled to shout, curse and even hit them: it’s the only natural response.
We’re less likely to see anger in these hierarchical terms today, but perhaps we should.
Technostress: When electronic devices rouse murderous and stressful reactions
It may be precisely why computers and other electronic devices rouse such murderous reactions. They are supposed to be making our lives easier, these willful electronic slaves of ours. But mostly it feels as if they’re in charge, forcing us to negotiate with them, cooperate, read their manuals …
Aristotle would have been furious.
For an emotional machine see: self-pity.
See also: disgruntlement; rage; ringxiety.
Torschlusspanik describes the agitated, fretful feeling we get when we notice time is running out.
The heart pounds, the nape of the neck prickles, as the deadline approaches. Yet, we’re stuck, bewildered by choices and terrified we’re about to make the wrong one.
Life, and all its abundant opportunities, is passing us by.
Torschlusspanik: The agitated, fretful feeling we get when we notice time is running out
Literally translated from the German as ‘gate-closing-panic’, Torschlusspanik was coined in the Middle Ages. Seeing a rampaging army approach, and knowing that the castle gates were about to close, travellers and shepherds flung their belongings aside and stampeded across the drawbridge to safety.
Nowadays, the closing gates we rush towards are metaphorical. But the blind panic can be no less grim. Germans most often use Torschlusspanik to describe the feeling some women experience of being terrorised by the tick-tick-tick of a biological clock.
Feeling irresistibly drawn to crumbling buildings and abandoned places.
Ruinenlust: Feeling irresistibly drawn to crumbling buildings and abandoned places
WHAT DOES IKTSUARPOK, GEZELLIGHEID AND BASOREXIA MEAN?
When visitors are due to arrive, a fidgety feeling sprouts up. We might keep glancing out of the window. Or pause mid-sentence, thinking we’ve heard the sound of a car.
Among the Inuit this antsy anticipation, causing them to scan the frozen Arctic plains for approaching sleds, is called iktsuarpok (pronounced eet-so-ahr-pohk).
Might the restless checking of our phones, waiting for an expected response to a text or comment on a status update, be a type of iktsuarpok?
Iktsuarpok: The fidgety feeling that arises when visitors are due to arrive
Constantly refreshing the screen to see if a hoped-for email has arrived can feel like one of the most distracting aspects of contemporary life. Perhaps it’s not the technology, however, as much as our desire for human contact in an isolating world, which is to blame.
For another feeling provoked by visitors to remote places, see: awumbuk.
See also: loneliness; ringxiety.
It’s no surprise that so many of northern Europe’s languages have a particular word for feeling cosy (from the Gaelic còsag, a small hole you can creep into). It’s when the rain is mizzling and the damp rises from the canals that we yearn for the feeling the Dutch call gezelligheid.
Derived from the word for ‘friend’, gezelligheid describes both physical circumstances – being snug in a warm and homely place surrounded by good friends (it’s impossible to be gezelligheid alone) – and an emotional state of feeling ‘held’ and comforted.
Gezelligheid: Being snug in a warm and homely place surrounded by good friends and an emotional state of feeling ‘held’ and comforted
The Danish hygge (cosiness), the German Gemütlichkeit, which describes feelings of congeniality and companionship, and the Finnish kodikas (roughly: homely) have similar connotations.
Rifle through the languages of the sunny Mediterranean, however, and the equivalent combination of physical enclosure and emotional comfort is much harder to find.
See also: inhabitiveness; comfort.
The sudden urge to kiss someone.
See also: vulnerability.
Basorexia: The sudden urge to kiss someone
Tiffany Watt Smith is a research fellow at the Centre for the History of the Emotions
‘When something is important enough to name, you tend to feel it a bit more once you know the word exists – or notice yourself feeling it more,’ Ms Watt Smith said.
‘One of the words that really struck me was amae – a Japanese word that refers to the sense of belonging, comfort and warmth experienced when someone is looking after you.’
Officially, the word is described as ‘the urge to crumple into the arms of a loved one to be coddled and comforted…it’s important in reviving and is a sensation of temporary surrender in perfect safety.’
Similarly, Ms Watt Smith found the word ‘gezelligheid’ really resonated with her – a European word she summarised as the emotion felt when ‘being snug and cozy inside with friends and family – especially when it’s raining or cold outside’.
WHAT DOES HWYL, BASOREXIA, BRABANT AND AWUMBUK MEAN?
Literally the word for a boat sail, hywl is a wonderfully onomatopoeic Welsh word (pronounced who-eel) that means exuberance or excitement, as if clipping along on a gust of wind.
Used to describe flashes of inspiration, a singer’s gusto or raised spirits at parties, hwyl is also the word for goodbye:
Hywl fawr – Go with the wind in your sails.
See also: joy.
There is an emptiness after visitors depart. The walls echo. The space which felt so cramped while they were here now seems weirdly large.
And though there is often relief, we can also be left with a muffled feeling – as if a fog has descended and everything seems rather pointless (see: apathy).
See also: melancholy ; grief.
Awumbuk: The emptiness felt after visitors depart and the room feels weirdly large
You know it’s not a good idea, and likely to backfire. But you just can’t resist wondering what would happen if…
In The Deeper Meaning of Liff Douglas Adams and John Lloyd gave this glint of a feeling a name. Brabant: ‘very much inclined to see how far you can push someone’.
See also: perversity; ilinx .
Ms Watt said both her career and the new words have helped her expand her emotional capacity.
‘I came to understand all corners of my emotional experience in a way I hadn’t before and I feel like when you can name these emotions you can accept them and not let them overwhelm you,’ she said.
‘There are multiple versions of emotions like rage – and the Pintupi, whose home is in Western Australia – they have 15 different kinds of fear, some describing fear of revenge, and another describing the frozen fear felt when somebody is creeping behind you.’
WHAT DOES CYBERCHONDRIA AND RINGXIETY MEAN?
A phone trills in a crowded train carriage, and you frantically rummage for yours. Out on a country walk you whip out your phone like a gun from a holster, convinced you’ve felt it vibrate, only to discover a pathetically blank screen.
According to the psychologist David Laramie, who coined the term, ringxiety is a feeling of low- level anxiety causing us to think we’ve heard our phones ring, even when they haven’t. Evidence – as if we needed any more – that in this age of instant communication, being in a state of readiness for human contact is fast becoming a default setting.
See also: anticipation; dread.
Ringxiety: When you feel your phone vibrate but the phone is ‘pathetically blank’
Anxiety about ‘symptoms’ of an ‘illness’ fuelled by internet ‘research’.
See also: paranoia.
The Book of Human Emotion is available on Amazon for $16.75
Included in the book is ‘nginywarrarringu’ – ‘the sudden spasm of alarm that makes a person leap to their feet and look about them, trying to see what caused it.’
With so many words included, and Ms Watt Smith admitting she could have written multiple books, the London-based academic said she tried to keep the words included current.
New words like ringxiety, a feeling of nervousness surrounding the idea of people getting in touch with them, cyberchondria, ‘anxiety about symptoms of an illness fuelled by internet research’, and technostress, the kind of range triggered by electronic devices, are all included in the book.
‘I did regret not having fomo (fear of missing out) in there though,’ Ms Watt Smith admitted, ‘I think it’s such a distinct emotion I experience and it’s so reflective of our time.’
But Ms Watt Smith said if she had to pick a favourite word, it would be homefulness.
‘It’s the feeling you get when you get off a plane or drive into your street that encompasses belonging and satisfaction…it’s so lovely and I’ve always felt it.’
The Book of Human Emotion is available on Amazon for $16.75.