How the Right Words Help Us to Feel the Right Things

You’re in a part of town
you used to live in as a teenager. You walk past the house of the girlfriend
you knew when you were 16. You look up to what used to be
her bedroom window. From the outside,
everything still looks the same though somebody else lives there now. Her parents are retired, she’s married
with two small kids in another city. You feel a searing nostalgia for
everything that was and no longer is. It’s not so much her you miss, more what you had, who you both were,
how things looked then. It’s hard to explain what the feeling is,
though it is confounding in its intensity. At that moment, your phone rings. It’s a friend – who asks how you are. You’re at a loss, you don’t quite
know how to convey your emotions and after a few attempts,
move on to other subjects. Unless – that is – you speak Portuguese, because if you do,
there will be no need to struggle. You will have the ideal word
immediately to hand. You will simply tell your friend
that you are experiencing ‘saudade’ and they will understand. The word, which has no direct translation
in any other language, means a bitter-sweet melancholic yearning
for something beautiful that is now gone: a love affair, a childhood home,
a friendship. It’s a blend of pain at loss and pleasure
that loveliness once graced our lives. The underlying issue, the relationship between
language and feeling, has long created debate in philosophy. Some thinkers have proposed that
feelings are independent of words: babies, for example, can feel things long before they know how to
pin words to their sensations. But other philosophers have insisted
that certain feelings would remain essentially unknown to us if we didn’t have the words
to help us recognise them. The truth – as so often – lies somewhere
in an intriguing middle zone. Language may not wholly create feelings, but it most definitely and beautifully
deepens and clarifies them. The right words help us to know ourselves; through their agency, we can more accurately and securely
identify the contents of our inner lives. The phenomenon becomes
particularly apparent whenever we come across words
in other languages that zero in on a feeling that our own
language doesn’t have a succinct term for. We notice then just how much a good word
can do to bring an emotion into focus. Take, for example, the Turkish word HÜZÜN, which refers to the gloomy feeling
that things are in decline and that the situation – often political
in nature – will probably only get worse, typically because of the folly and
grandiosity of corrupt political leaders. How useful to have such a word to
indicate, and commune with, the depths of grief unfolding
in the Turkish soul. Or, more cheerily, up in Norway
they have FORELSKET, a word that captures the euphoric feeling
at the beginning of love, when we can’t believe someone so perfect could have wandered into our lives
and has the goodness to think well of us. We might report: ‘I was overpowered
by forelsket as our fingers enlaced…’ But it isn’t just a few magical words from
foreign languages that clarify our minds. This is what all great literature may do. What we call a ‘good’ poem or novel is ultimately one that reduces the extent of our own
self-alienation and misunderstanding, and returns us to ourselves. After a lifetime of reading, we might know how to
pin words and sentences to pretty much everything we feel, however ephemeral and fragile it might be. It was this gift that Shakespeare praised
in A Midsummer Night’s Dream when he wrote that: The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling, Doth glance from heaven to earth,
from earth to heaven; And as imagination bodies forth The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen Turns them to shapes and
gives to airy nothing A local habitation and a name. Thanks to literature, we can be
rescued from the closed diving-bells we are otherwise locked into. The right words break our isolation. They are the agents of,
and conduits to, love.

100 Replies to “How the Right Words Help Us to Feel the Right Things”

  1. Its funny because he said it like people do in southern Brazil: "saul-dah-djee". Here in the northern side, people usually say "saul-dah-dee". That's one of the reasons foreign people find portuguese a very difficult language to learn.

  2. Unbelievable! I am portuguese and when you were mentioning the incapacity to express the feeling I was thinking to myself "If only they knew what 'saudade' is…" I couldn't believe when you started to talk about it then… seemed like a joke, I could only smile to myself. Also, the way you pronounce it its really funny!

  3. 'Forelsket' is the same word in Danish, and it simply means 'in love'. You can't be "overpowered by" forelsket; you can simply BE forelsket.

  4. My diary looks like a garden filled with beautiful words and feelings. I welcome Saudade and Forelsket today.

  5. 1. Here is a little list that may help:

    I have a Japanese friend here in Germany, who suffered a lot from love pain recently. He told me something I never thought about: he said that he was telling the story of his separation to a friend in Japanese and after a while, they both ended up making fun of all the details and laughing! He felt so "lightened up" afterwards. The next day he told the same story to another friend in German and he couldn't stop crying!

    I understand…German is an incredibly powerful language. Pain sounds like pain and fear sound like fear! May be that's why psychologists all over the world use the German term "Angst", while describing fear. Because it has the right " weight an depth".

    German can be extremely helpful if you are willing to look into the very depths of your soul, but of course we don't want to BE there all the time!!

    There was a time where I was having nightmares every night and it occurred to me that may be I needed to see a shrink. Well but then I thought " there is no way I am gonna talk to a shrink about my mother in German for God's sake!! That would give me and the poor shrink even more nightmares.

    ( German friends, please don't feel offended. I love your wonderful language! It is just that because it is so precise, it leaves you no escape! I mean how can you say
    " Ausweglosigkeit des Daseins" in another language that will really make it sound like what it is ?? )

    2. Philosopher Karl Popper says that our language is like a prison. But it is an " odd prison" because we are unaware of being imprisoned. And he adds this:

    "If we try hard enough we can transcend our prison by studying the new language and by comparing it with our own. Admittedly the result will be a new prison. And again, we will not suffer from it. Or rather, whenever we do suffer from it, we are free to examine it critically and thus to break out again into a still wider prison. "

    ( From the book " The Myth of the Framework" )

    So indeed it is a good idea to learn a couple of languages. I highly recommend everyone the website Duolingo. It is really a lot of fun!

    3. But we could also say that:

    " We are a slightly different person in every language we speak".

    I heard this idea on a wonderful " On Being with Krista Tippett" podcast called " Unfolding Language, Unfolding Life", with the linguist Jean Berko Gleason.

    4. You can also listen to Stephen Fry's very interesting thoughts on language if you search for this podcast:

    " Stephen Fry, Series 2, Episode 3, Language"

    Talking about whether the language is the father of thought or not, he gives us this great question as an example:

    " How can I tell you what I think, until I've heard what I am going to say"?

    5. One thing I like a lot about the word " saudade" is that as Fernando Pessoa says, you can also feel saudade of things that never existed….

    " Nao há saudades mais dolorosas
    do que as das coisas
    que nunca foram"

    ( The most painful saudades
    are those of the things
    that were never there.)

    6. Wittgenstein says " All I know is what I have words for".

    But we must also be at peace with the idea that there will be so much we won't be able to say..

    And that's what the music is for!

    7. So here are three songs I would recommend:
    Άκης Πάνου – Θέλω Να Τα Πω ( I want to tell, Akis Pano )
    They call the wind Mariah ( Sam Cooke)
    Le tengo rabia al silencio ( Atahualpa Yupanqui

  6. I have been looking for a word that expresses this emotion for so long and I'm glad I found it, "Saudade". I love this channel

  7. Guys, I'm Turkish and the word "hüzün" has no connection with a political implication. And yes, it is originated from Arabic which means basically sadness in that language. But we use it mostly to mention inner pain that does not come and go very quickly. The grief you dont talk about too much, the grief reflected in one's eyes.

  8. You're a piece of shit. I'm turkish and hüzün only means sadness, I have also checked the dictionary.

  9. "Hüzün" just means sadness. We have "üzüntü" and "hüzün". Üzüntü is just sadness. Hüzün means kind of the same thing but it sounds more deep and poetic. But it doesn't have a deep unexplainable meaning, it's just sadness

  10. Im from Ireland and a nice little Irish word we have is "macnas" its used to describe a feeling of overpowering joy and is usually applied to young calfs who are always skipping and jumping around happily

  11. hahahaha that Dident even reconize ny own language there ? that prononcment was so wrong "forelsket " ??

  12. How do i recover from racism and descrimination from an Arab father that played with us and broke my relationship with an Arab girl. Descrimination due to religion, race, nationality, career and education.. etc.. All suddenly disappeared in poisoned mystery and now i don't trust my past present nor future and just only suicidal due to lost hopes and direction in life with mystery for almost 2 years.?

  13. of course it has translations – for example the german word “sehnsucht”
    [according to the duden it means;
    'earnest, poignant yearning/longing for somenody or something [lacking or distant]']

  14. "Hüzün, which refers to gloomy feeling that things are in decline and the situation often political in nature will only get worse, typically because of corrupt political leaders."
    really? lol who funds this channel? the US government?

  15. There is a similar word in Russian. It sounds like nostalgia with strong "g" like in the word "garbage". It's when you recall something heart-touching from your past that will never happen in the present and you feel both good about that, because it was so pleasant in the past, and bad because you will not be able to bring it back.

  16. Was going to day, isn't sausage just nostalgia? Furulsket is infatuation. Still a great video. I <3 words

  17. His pronunciation of the Norwegian (Swedish and Damnish have the same word, pronounced only microscopically differently) leaves much to be desired, though: for-EL-sket.

  18. Actually there's a similar expression in Japanese :'Natsukashii'. My Japanese friend who speaks Portuguese told me about this expression and I was surprised to know that.

  19. Dear School of life. my name is Andrew, I'm 24 black and a virgin in America. I feel trapped in my own virginity. it seems no women is adventurous to venture into an untouched​ man. and leaves me feeling unwanted and rejected. and no one around me understands at all.
    your videos have brought me so much joy in my discouraging lonely moments . could you please make a video on the alienation of late age virgins in modern day America please.

  20. What the fuck? "Hüzün" has nothing to do with politics mate, what are you trying to do here? Paint a picture of how us Turkish people are so damn poor and pathetic because of the government that we need a special word for it? Fuck me the government is bad alright but "hüzün" has nothing to do with it. It's used to express sadness and gloominess in general.

  21. Ah yes "saudade" is such a beautiful word in my language.
    It really is a great and beautiful, yet not easy language.

  22. I'm from Angola and we speak portuguese too… "Saudade" is a great word to describe past emotions and feelings about something or someone. it's good nostalgia! I love it.

  23. in japanese, they have 'natsukashii' it is used when something evokes a sense of nostalgia for the past or fond remembrance. It is not a wistful longing, but a happy look back at a past memory, for instance when looking at old pictures from childhood. (quoted from a blog). something like remembering the old times or longing the old times and it makes you smile

  24. so really, how is the word "hüzün" specifically related to politics? "often political in nature"? oh please…

  25. The right words are only of (true) significance (in breaking isolation or being understood) when/if the listener is on the same frequency or has capacity of seeing you in your frequency. Because words can mean so many things and are very limited/limiting in juxtaposition to all we can feel . Also because people really devalutate the meaning of words, whilst many times.. they are all we got..but people use it too freely, they don't guard it and weigh them as they should.

  26. To all the people in the comment section , i would like to suggest them to take a look at Wordstuck tumblr. Just google it and you will be blown away.

  27. Love your channel. You have no idea how much this helps me in my daily life. I just wanted to say thank you.

  28. Let’s not forget the wonderful Welsh word HIRAETH… more about a sense of place than longing of what’s gone, but encompasses the full meaning of homesickness, and the loss of place, and equally deserves the global word status afforded to tsunami……

  29. Knowing a word that distinctly describes how you are feeling makes you feel better because you know that other people have felt the same way… And the feeling was important enough to create a word for it. These people would understand your situation. And you get the validation you need just knowing the word that describes how you feel. I identify deeply with all of the words described in this video.

    Everyone needs validation and unfortunately feelings very rarely are. If someone asks how you are, you probably answer "fine" even when you are not. When we were 12, my friends and I picked up on this. We started to answer "not so good", "sad", "stressed", or "scared". Half of the askers didn't even notice. They nodded with a smile or said "good" and kept walking. Others looked blankly at us. Very few were attentive to our response and stopped to ask why we were feeling that way. And most of them tried to just cheer us up or to tell us it isn't as bad as we think.

  30. As a Turkish speaker I dont think huzun as a word is typically associated with political situation, although it does convey a sense of helplessness i guess. It feels like a silent ongoing mourning and feeling of sadness accompanied by helplessness, but not typically about the political situarion, it could be anything. Although it could be about politics, and yeah we have had and do have have a lot to feel huzun for in that area, the word is more commonly used for personal sadness, in my opinion.

  31. an less poignant alternative to saudade would be natsukashii in japanese…'s a nostalgic longing of the past with happiness for the fond memory and yet with no longer sadness

  32. for me love is the right word even though it is just a word. It depends if it is one sided or not? Unfortunately my actions don't always have the match my actions as my experiences are't normal. Imho it means more because of this, more than I can express!

  33. HÜZÜN is not about political. Turkish use that when they are sad or feel melancholy.HÜZÜN has a deep meaning and you cant understand what it tell you. Also politica and hüzün are not connected each other with no way.Do good resarch !!!!

  34. In the beginning was the Word…. and the Word was with God… and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among men…

  35. Hi Nirvana

    I recently came across
    your post of 2 years ago, below. If I may say so, it was most gentle and reserved, and yet its poignancy captured my attention, and so I thought I’d reply to you! I hope you see it and that you like it.

    I don’t know any of the backstory with your former-friend and so, for example, I don’t know whether your friend was skilled at helping you understand your predicaments or dispensing great advice. They are important, although practical and intellectually-focused things.

    I can’t help but wonder whether what you miss most is your friend’s emotional support and connection. Perhaps your friend was marvelous at helping you feel seen and heard and valued, especially in times of worry.

    Whatever your friendship gave you, it sounds as though your friend ended your friendship without (either properly or at all) discussing it with you or offering any explanations or reasons.

    Whatever the circumstances, I am very sorry that happened to you.

    It also happened to me, and so I felt activated to write this comment, which on reflection is of course as much for and about you as it is me! Therefore, I hope it is appropriate for me to press on and keep writing in the hope we both might feel a bit better.

    After more than thirty extraordinary and precious years, my once dear and beloved friend sent me a text message demanding I never again make any contact. We had spoken the night before and everything seemed perfectly fine.

    (Side note: In the context of friendships, I find the concept of demands per se to be problematic. I think we can rightly expect our friends to be honest, loyal and kind, and so on because they are reciprocal and therefore legitimate expectations, but
    who is ever entitled to demand anything of a friend?)

    I was disenfranchised from what is regarded as a mutual connection with equal contribution and responsibility. You said that your friend doesn’t speak to you anymore. Did your friendship end suddenly like that, too?

    At the time, I remember thinking even accused murders are given an opportunity to understand their alleged wrongdoings and to mount a spirited defence. So why was I being denied that? I wasn’t a criminal but I started to feel as guilty as one; my guilt being nebulous on account of being untethered to anything specific, but no less pernicious and awful.

    It was all so painful and seemed cruel and very unfair.

    As a result of my friend’s ongoing silence and indifference, I didn’t have enough information to create a logical and plausible narrative to help me make sense of it alI, and so I stayed confused for a very long time, unable to properly move on.

    Looking back, I think my friend must have been in a great deal of pain and feeling very angry with me to cut me off so abruptly.

    Regardless of my friend’s undisclosed reasons and justifications, the way in which he ended our friendship felt like a hard slap, intended as punishment. It certainly hit the mark.

    There is something I try to keep in mind that might be helpful for you as well: good friends simply don’t behave that way. Not ever. They were not our friends, at least not at the end. We lost our friends a long time ago, with no possibility of recourse or comeback.

    The impacts for me were difficult to tolerate. I found myself in a
    miserable and degrading situation: first, I was left to work out what exactly happened, and then plunged into the agony and abject horror as the enormity and finality of it all became clear, and finally to be left to endlessly speculate about why I was rejected, discarded and abandoned. I felt completely and irredeemably worthless and pathetic.

    But there’s a tangible and extraordinarily positive upside. Here me out …

    You and I – right now – can be that wonderful friend to other people.

    What was denied us can be reinstated in a sense by exercising our agency, informed by our hard-won wisdom and guided by a generous spirit, to be a kind, loyal and dependable friend to many, many other and much more deserving people.

    What do you think?

  36. Omg when he said forelsket. That was so nice. I'm so glad I grew up in norway and learned it. It's such a sweet word. I wonder what words there are for my feelings that I do not yet know, but how can I begin to figure out a feeling I don't know – can put words on? Hmm

  37. Saudade is so common for us Brazilians who speak Portuguese. It's interesting to know there's no translation for it. Still I feel saudade of a lot of things. 🙂

  38. Bet you guys don't kow what a cafuné is 🙂 it's a portuguese word for a kind of affection gesture we do in the head of the person we love and care for. It's awesome.

  39. There is a proverb that says: "You live a new life for every new language you speak. If you know only one language, you live only once." This is so true to me.
    I love the way we are able to play with words in Portuguese language. Bate uma saudade enorme das conversas descontraídas e principalmte do sotaque "mineirês".
    Thank you School of Life for such informative and inspirational channel. Highly appreciated!

  40. The moment you, terrified, suspect, emotions could possibly be a matter of culture, and it's likely that nothing's really subjective or – perhaps even worse – individual. Not just you, but your whole experience of life, is not something you share with the collective but a product of it.
    And, still, we've managed to find ourselves in the loneliest of times.

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