Nicole Sharp

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Toska

I recently found out that I am suffering from an affliction.  It isn’t even an American condition I suffer from, it’s Russian.  It came on slowly, and really, I had no idea I was even sickly.  How did I find out I had an ailment, you might ask?

Why from the internet of course.

My dad called me up and told me to check out a web site that had an article entitled 20 Awesomely untranslatable words from around the world.  I read the list with interest, aware, yet again, how I long for more depth to our English language.  I wish we had one word that could sum up some of these big emotions.  It just seems so romantic, so culturally rich.  For example, number ten on the list of Awesome words: Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese ) “The act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair.”

Back to what I suffer from.

I am afflicted with Toska.  I have a Toska heart.  My soul is riddled with Toska.  A Toska to my health.  I  Toska.  I have only done enough research to learn that I am afflicted with Toska, not the part of language the word is.

According to this web site, the word is Russian in origin “ Vladmir Nabokov describes it best: “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.””

I have this longing for something more in my life.  My job does not define me.  The titles daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend don’t seem to define me completely.  My day to day life does not define me.  Sometimes I think my hobbies don’t define me.  I long for something I cannot name.  I yearn to be other than this person doing the dishes and sweeping the floor.  I’m sure I’m not alone, it’s just that I found a word for what I have and I need to abuse it a little bit.  Madeline L’Engle said if we are to reform the English language we must do damage to is.  I’m not sure she really meant that I need to find one word in another language I really like and think I’m suffering from only to use the crap out of it; but I’m sure if I could have sat her down and had a chat with her, she would have backed me on this one.

So, as those great poetic souls, They Might Be Giants sang, “not to put to fine a point on it” – I’m not going to overanalyze my secret yearning for something that can’t be named, but rather, I will leave you with a cool website to check out while I mindlessly soak up my toska-ness until my fingers get all prune-y.

3 Comments

  1. There are more words to describe human emotion in the Russian language than any other language on earth. This is because of the use suffixes and prefixes, which, when added to the root word, provide further nuances. It also explains a lot about Russian literature. If you think it’s depressing in English where much of the meaning is lost in translation, imagine reading it in the original Russian, with all the nuances of emotion intact. 🙂

  2. Shannon, I knew you would understand!!!!

  3. You satisfied my toska for reading something , probably the word toska!

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