Two Words for Tuesday

fruit, flowers, chair

The only difference between an extraordinary life and an ordinary one is the extraordinary pleasures you find in ordinary things.~ Veronique Vienne


I love words. I cherish and curate them and still use a dictionary every day.

Working with language is my introvert’s comfort zone and an endless, enjoyable safari that has gifted me with poetry, joy, clarity, connection and five different career strands.

I love how words have layers of meanings like the ripples from pebbles dropped in a pond; I love how they feel when they roll around the tongue or dance around the mind; I love untangling threads of meaning, cultures and essence when I translate.

I love communing with people at a slower pace, through words and music and all the silences in between.

Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. ~ Anne Lamott

I’ve recently been teaching myself the language of computer code, trying to build a new website theme that resonates with how I want the blog to feel now that its bustling bistro days are long gone. (I’m due a theme update but this one will bScreenshot (1)reak if I update it; I messed with the code in all the wrong places before I realised what I was doing.) There are only a few of us left, so with the new theme, I’m going for something simple and quaint, yet light and airy.

That’s why today’s Two Words for Tuesday are untranslatables; a Danish one and a Greek one that capture the essence of what I’d like blogging to feel like again, in a digital world that’s become much too busy, fast and shallow for me, maybe for you, too.

I’d like my new blog to feel more like the Danish word… HYGGE.

Hygge (pronounced like a cross between hoo-guh & hue-gih) is so multilayered, it’s at once untranslatable yet instantly recognisable. It’s used as an adjective and a noun and it’s an attitude of living in the now with well-being and presence; it’s comfort, cosiness, warmth between people and a heart glow; it’s the art of creating intimacy; it’s pleasure from simple things and the absence of annoying things; it’s what makes the everyday beautiful and special times magical; it’s drinking mulled wine and eating gingerbread by candlelight in front of the fire at Christmas or reading a holiday book alone at a sunbleached table in a warm sea breeze as the sun goes down slowly over the Greek ocean.

And the Greek word? One of my favourites. (Sorry this theme can’t cope with Greek fonts.)

meráki  (mer-AH-kee) When you create, do or learn something out of love, primarily for you, and you leave a bit of your self, your essence and your soul in it.

For me, it’s been my writing and my Greek.

If I stay on track, I plan to share more words with you this week. I hope that’s OK with you.

What speaks to you of hygge? What could you do today to have more of a hygge home and live a more hygge life?

How does meráki show up in your life?


  1. Hi Janice – I don’t want to shock you but Hygge – I knew … it had come up on a sustainable chef’s tv programme about Denmark – and enthused me .. so I noted Hygge – and I was going to use in a post in Feb 2014 – but that ‘Ubuntu’ blog hop never happened.

    The concept of Hygge is just brilliant … and it’ll get its post sometime …

    Now the Greek ‘Meraki’ – I’ve never come across – but can quite see where you’re coming from … in this life we definitely need to do something because it is for us and we appreciate it so much more … I must get to that ..

    Good luck with the computer and theme updates etc .. the idea of a light and airy, simple and quaint make-over sounds delightful … all the best for a happy and peaceful and successful week … cheers Hilary
    Hilary recently posted…Tulip time …My Profile

    1. Hi Hilary,
      It doesn’t surprise me at all that you knew the word ‘hygge’ – you’re quite the eclectic gal! It’s also been in loads of blogposts recently about words that don’t translate into English, but I’ve been translating for decades now, so the notebooks were bulging long before I had the means to share all my lovely treasures. I actually love studying translation theory as well as enjoying languages themselves – my brain enjoys the essence-wrangling. Translating is something else I do out of pure meráki now; the internet and Google Translate cut my ‘manual’ translating career short. I used to have to deliver or post translations I’d typed out by hand. The beauty of meráki is that the things we do for our soul’s pleasure inevitably end up serving others because that joy spills over.

      But what about the hygge in your home? The meráki in your life? 😉

      1. Hi Janice – I guess that’s right … my brain is ‘everywhere’ – where I can understand what’s being discussed or thought about. I’m just lucky it can hold its own and remember lots of things – then I might need to search … but usually it comes back.

        I guess the meraki for me would be the ‘translating of ideas into blog posts – that then get acknowledged.

        So Hygge and Meraki – are due to appear at the forefront of all things I do once the solstice and change is over … now I must work in that direction ..

        I’d love to study translation, language etc … perhaps I’ll have a chance in the future to be able to at least attend a course/event on those sorts of subjects. I loved the lecture I went to at the British Museum on Viking words we use today and are recorded in our history .. I wrote about that under Scandinavian Words two years ago …

        … then we forget that French was still the common language in Europe 300 years ago, and is I think the diplomatic language today … it is. I think I’ll stop there as I’ll be led off along numerous paths …

        Then your comment that the things we do for our soul’s pleasure will help others is so true … we’re happier and we can spread our joy further or concentrate and hone those precious skills.

        Cheers Hilary
        Hilary recently posted…Tulip time …My Profile

        1. I’ll stop there as I’ll be led off along numerous paths …

          But there’s the fun, right there – I love your blog’s meandering paths, but I also admire your ability to corral all your thoughts and ideas into posts that people get a lot out of. I hope you do get the chance to do a course and indulge your love of words, language and translation even more!

  2. Wow I wrote a long response and then the electrician turned off the power to work on the kitchen remodel and all disappeared. Using the Danish word, I thought about how I was going to make a favorite bread recipe when the kitchen is usable. ( maybe next week) I want the house to be filled with that lovely yeasty bread smell through out and my hands are needing to knead. The Greek word makes me think about how creative the act of cooking is for me, and how many hundreds of Tuesdays I have made bread, rolls, buns, and cookies for my Gluten Free family over the years. I seem to be able to forget the failures with just one whiff of the fresh new. May it linger as a blessing at this new/old house for days to come

    Your love of words is wonderful – a nice communication shared here Thank you
    Patricia recently posted…ONCE UPON A LIE: A Novel ~Michael FrenchMy Profile

    1. Hi Patricia,
      I’m glad you still appreciate my word addiction after all these years!

      It sounds as if this new house project is energising you. I believe that old houses appreciate being lovingly restored and enhanced and you can almost feel them breathing again. Bread baking for pleasure – what a lovely way of honouring past traditions and future dreams with presence while you’re in the middle of the hard graft of creating a new home. It captures the very essence of hygge and meráki! Thanks for sharing what the words conjured up for you. 🙂

  3. I love this post, Janice – as you know, I’m in love with language(s) too! Like Hilary, I was familiar with hygge, but not meráki.

    I’m not sure our home is very hygge at the moment – we used to do a lot of work to make the place more cozy, but we’ve been rather distracted with other things for a while. I think simply having a bit of a clear-out might help!!

    On the other hand, life is definitely more hygge now – with me spending time exploring, either in London or abroad, taking photos and filming with my iPhone, while hubby spends his time writing music at home.

    And as for meráki… I think that’s always been my default setting for anything I learn. 🙂

    Good luck with your theme update! I’ve just updated my theme, but I did it the lazy way for a change – I can’t be bothered to edit the code (although, having said that, I did have to add a plugin so that I could customise some of the CSS without having to set up a child theme!!)

    We really must have a chat one of these days! 🙂
    Julia Barnickle recently posted…The Barnes TrailMy Profile

  4. I agree about the chat! I could have done with that plugin today as I swung between making dry toast for my poorly son and testing out CSS changes in the theme I’m trying to adapt. It’s got nice clean code and I’ve got a couple by the same author in my theme collection so it’s helping me learn. However, if I could find one I loved 100%, I’d use it straight out of the box! Your new theme’s lovely; it’s one of those that’s been sitting in my top ten list since it came out, again because I love how clean it is. Joanna’s changed themes again, too; she’s gone back to using one of her previous ones, another of my favourite clean, minimalist ones. I think a lot of my favourites are based on Underscore.

    If I manage to finish this swan paddling furiously under water phase (so much work involved in taking things away from a theme rather than adding stuff) my next challenge is figuring out how to get Greek fonts uploaded so I can do proper word posts and Greek posts with lyrics etc. The only thing I’ve packed so far is a book of Greek poetry about the austerity crisis – I’m desperate to get my head stuck in a dictionary again. Translation helps me clear out my house, my computer and my phone files, because it keeps essence at the forefront of everything.

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