Dagmar (dadi) wrote in linguaphiles,

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All the happiness in the world :)

I have a Swedish friend who, when writing in English, always writes "I went very happy about this", describing the fact that she was glad about something. Which in English, as far as I know, can be expressed only indirectly: "I experienced great joy about this" or "I felt very pleased about this".

This brought me to think about the way various, even related, languages express the fact of a)being happy once of a sudden about something, and also b) looking forward to something.

Most languages don't have expressions for both these "events". In German, for example, the "looking forward" part is translatable into "sich auf etwas freuen", and this is the only language I know where actually the verb describing happiness is part of the wording also for the "advance pleasure". The "experiencing joy" part is also expressed by the verb "sich freuen": "Ich habe mich sehr gefreut" (I was very pleased/happy about this). However, if you want to describe the "process" of going from indifferent to happy, you still would use the passive "Das machte mich sehr glücklich" (this made me very happy).

In Italian, the first concept does not have an own expression. The looking forward part is not something you say, at the most "Non vedo l'ora di.." (I can't wait until...) but this does not contain the "happy" part. There is however a word for the "continuing happiness": gioire. "Ho gioito" means "I was happy, I had fun, I enjoyed, I was pleased". Also, there is "godere", which is even more intense, mostly for experiencing joy of the senses, from food to sex, but in the popular language can also mean the process of experiencing joy over something: "Quando ho sentito che la mia squadra ha vinto, ho goduto come uno scemo" (when I heard that my team won, I went crazy with joy"). There is an expression for the inverse process ("sono rimasto male", I felt unhappy about) the "from indifferent to happy" part in the more formal language becomes passive, induced from the outside, like in German "questo mi ha reso felice" (this made me happy").

From what I know about Romanian, there too the "looking forward part" is expressed by the "can't wait until.." term: "Abia aştept să...". Like in Italian, there is a verb for the experience of pleasure: "Mă bucur" (I am happy, I am glad, I am pleased). "M-am bucurat foarte mult pentru.." (I experienced great joy/pleasure about/because of). As far as I know, the passive expression "Asta m-a făcut să mă bucur" (This made me feel happy) is less used than in German and Italian.

So, how do your languages deal with happiness? And do you see a connection with other characteristics of the people who use those languages? It makes me think that in some languages the process of "becoming happy" is something expressed by an own action, in others it seems a lot more induced from outside. Why, for example, will an Italian actively "become unhappy" but "become happy" only via external influence?

(x-posted to my own journal)

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