Recognising and Expressing Moods: Putting a Phrase to the Feeling
Among the trending topics recently popularised in glossy magazines and in the world of publishing there are two emotions: hygge, marketed as “the secret of Danish happiness”, a sensation of wellbeing combining a sense of comfort, relaxation and freedom ; and sisu, a concept which “identifies the Finnish people”, approximated as boldness, grit and perseverance in the face of adversity .
While the two feelings are interesting and worthwhile in themselves, what catches the eye and mind is also the fact that they’re both explicitly linked to a nationality. In fact, they’re presented as national traits: hygge defines the Danes, sisu characterises the Finns. As if up there, in the heavens of perfect feelings, there was a correspondence between one specific feeling and one specific national identity. So if hygge is said to define the Danes, sisu – the Finnish and spleen - the Brits, what is it, one can’t help wondering in this geographical space between the Carpathians, Danube and Black Sea, that defines the Romanians?
We won’t know for sure: we, alas, don’t have a special word or concept that can become a trending topic (except, perhaps, for dor). But we can imagine an experiment to try and circumscribe some (if not typical, then) common Romanian feelings. The experiment might start on a bench in a park like Cişmigiu, in Bucharest. Imagine you sat on that bench for a couple of hours, with the only intent of (over)hearing snippets of conversation from passers-by. Who are they? Schoolchildren going to a nearby high school. Undergraduates on their way to the University. And public servants or bank clerks heading for work at the city hall or a bank in the area. Basically, people of all ages chatting in natural, everyday Romanian about whatever-people-chat-about while walking to school or work.
In that experiment, on that bench, during those two hours, in those snippets, you are very likely to hear a number of phrases which are very frequently used to express certain moods and feelings. Here are some examples, with translations and the phrases in italics:
“Adina a picat la examen.” / “Adina failed the exam.”
“Ce rău îmi pare!” / That’s too bad.
“Ion se însoară.” / “Ion is getting married.”
“Nu pot să cred!” / “I can’t believe it!”
“Mara a primit 150 de like-uri la poza aia.” / “Mara got 150 likes for that photo.”
“Ce tare!” / “How cool!”
“Pe Dan l-a dat afară profa de istorie.” / “Dan was kicked out of the class by the history teacher.”
“Săracul...” / “Poor him...”
“Proful ne-a cerut să învăţăm pe dinafara toată balada!” / “The teacher asked us to rote learn the whole ballad.”
“Ce tâmpenie!” / “How stupid!”
“La 10 trebuie să mergem la şedinţa aia.” / “At 10 we have to go to that meeting.”
“N-am niciun chef.” / “I don’t feel like it.”
“Nu mai e nevoie să predăm raportul azi.” / “We don’t need to hand in the report today anymore.”
“Ce bine!...” / “That’s good!...”
These seven phrases and about ten more are carriers of the most frequent moods and feelings most frequently expressed by Romanians in daily conversation. They don’t come down to just one “specific” national feeling, but they do reflect how often we Romanians feel (or at least express) certain emotions: the most common seem to be annoyance, (sarcastic or genuine) compassion, regret, disbelief, resignation, relief.
So now, if you were to end up the experiment, stand up from the Cişmigiu bench and express that one feeling in Romanian, which specific one would it be?
Notes & Sources