Monday, March 9, 2009

Linguistic Observations: Happy?



By Juliette Kando

One nice day, in the car, I began to sing and say silly things as you do, like: ‘I’m happy, oh so very happy’.

I uttered these feelings in different languages while mimicking the enunciation of the words. The English way of saying and feeling exhilaratingly happy sounded like a cockerel exuding his morning tunes. Whereas in French the same words: ‘Je suis tellement heureuse’ sounded much more poetic, gentle.I tried to say the same words of happiness in German: ‘Ich bin so glücklich’ but here the words were ugly and seemed too serious, too determined. Then I cried out loud the same words in Dutch: ‘I voel me zo lekker, ik ben zo gelukkig’ and I noticed that in the Dutch language, the tone and mood of the words sounded the most childlike and genuinely enthusiastic of the four languages.
Interesting, I thought. Would this be a valid linguistic phenomenon or my own personal interpretation of those four languages, meaning I must have been happiest when I lived in Holland? Probably a bit of both.

The other interesting point is that in German and Dutch the words for happiness: Glücklich and Gelukkig both contain the word ‘luck’. In other words, in Germany and in Holland you are lucky when you are happy. Or one could say that you are happy when you are lucky. Not so in French and English. In French: Bonheur (happiness) is “Good Hour”, implying that you can only be happy some of the time. How negative!
I concluded that only the English words for Happy, and Happiness are truly independent words, conveying the emotion, of feeling very well, and very good by their sheer happy sound.

Anyway I am enchanted to have made the previous, to me, interesting observations.
Again, if you look at the word Enchanted, Enchanté/e in French, are they related to Chanter / to Sing? In Spanish, the same: Encantado/a, Cantar (to sing). So the Latinos sing with joy when they meet you whereas the English are merely Delighted to meet you - they receive light?

Another thing: it appears that the English always adopt French when they want to be Bon Vivants, have a Laisser Faire attitude, just had a Déja Vu or merely enjoy an Entrecote (an animal’s bit between the ribs – côte = rib) with good Etiquette.

The unlucky animal that has been slaughtered for an English dinner table suddenly acquires a French name. Beef comes from Boeuf, a French ox. Mutton comes from the French animal Mouton who was an English sheep when still grazing in the field. And pork is just a pig. Also, the English never kill animals En Masse, no, they prefer to Cull them.
They say the English language has the largest vocabulary, yet can express itself with the fewest words. That is perhaps why it is becoming increasingly popular?

Sorry, I’ll stop now, as multi-linguistic observations tend to lead one into a never-ending labyrinth of interesting discoveries. But hey, aren’t we lucky to be able to divulge them on the European American Blog?
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