When Words Fail Us

English Dictionaries. Photo by John Keogh on Flickr. CC BY-NC-2.0

Sometimes there’s something we want to express, but we can’t seem to find the right term for it. There’s a feeling or situation that we just can’t put into words. Or maybe the precise word doesn’t even exist in English.

On occasion we have to turn to words and phrases in other languages to describe exactly what we’re trying to say. For instance, in English we often borrow the German word “schadenfreude,” which means “pleasure at the misfortune of others”.

Maybe we should consider borrowing a few more foreign words that have no English equivalent. I suggest the following:

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God Provides, Even in Winter

Male Northern Cardinal. Photo by Tom Murray on Flickr CC BY-NC-2.0

If you live in eastern North America, you might be lucky enough to have seen a gorgeous bird called the northern cardinal. The male is especially distinctive, with his breathtaking red plumage and black “mask” on his face.

Up here in Canada, the cardinal is at the northernmost part of its range. We’re especially fortunate that, unlike many songbirds, cardinals don’t migrate south for the winter. We get to enjoy their presence year-round.

But what on earth do the cardinals eat here, when parts of Canada might be covered in several feet of snow?

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Fill in the Blanks

Photo by Michael Gaida on Pixabay

Did you know that some people make a hobby out of “reading” the forest in winter? By that I mean identifying trees despite their being bare of leaves this time of year.

This can be quite challenging, because frankly, many species of trees look almost identical to each other without their leaves. How do these nature lovers do it? How do they “fill in the blanks” and distinguish one species of tree from another in winter?

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Short But Sweet

Scottish Terriers: short but sweet!
Photo by Trisha Shears on Wikimedia Commons CC BY-2.0

Last week, the Scots celebrated “Hogmanay,” or New Year’s Eve. A particularly delicious treat often consumed there on this holiday is shortbread, which is a Scottish invention. It’s not really a bread, but rather a buttery, rich, crumbly type of cookie (recipe below).

But why is it called “short” bread? Is it vertically challenged? Well, yes, it’s quite a flat cookie, but in this case the word “short” means something different.

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2020: Here Be Dragons?

Map of Norwegian coast, 1539. Public Domain.

Have you ever seen antique maps with the ominous words, “Here Be Dragons” written across the uncharted regions, or with drawings of sea monsters lying in wait in the menacing oceans?

Heading into a new year, do you feel like you’re entering into unmapped territory in your own life? Do you worry there may be “dragons” lurking ahead for you in 2020?

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The Best Cover-Up Of All

Snowy bumps, Humber Bay Park East, Toronto
Photo by josullivan.59 on Flickr
CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

If you had guests coming over during the holidays, did you panic because your house was a bit of a mess? Did you try to make your place look neater by hurriedly scooping up a bunch of out-of-place objects from around the house and hurling them onto a bed, then hiding them under a comforter or blanket?

I’m not saying I’ve ever done anything like this, of course. I’ve just heard of other people who have.

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The Perfect Christmas?

Photo by Adam Clark on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

What’s your idea of the perfect Christmas? Many of us have images in our minds of what the ideal Yuletide should look like.

It usually involves a spectacular Christmas tree with enticing gifts piled beneath it. The house would be decorated with pine boughs and red bows inside, and the exterior decked out with lights. The day itself would feature a scrumptious dinner with all the fixings, and numerous home-baked desserts. Top it all off with a house full of family, friends and laughter.

There’s only one problem with this picture.

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My Lifeguard Walks On Water

The historic Leuty Lifeguard Station in Toronto’s eastern beaches
Photo by synestheticstrings on Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

For those of you who live near a large body of water, or who might be visiting one during the holidays, what are some important things to remember when spending a day at the beach?

Remembering to apply sunscreen is definitely important. So is bringing snacks, a blanket to lie on, and perhaps an umbrella to sit under. Maybe a toy bucket and shovel for the kids to play with in the sand.

But isn’t there something more important than all of those?

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Blessings of the Barren Season

Looking out the window here at The Faith Cafe, I notice that the deciduous trees in the park have dropped almost all of their leaves by now.

It’s always sad to have to say goodbye to the autumn leaves, isn’t it? When the last one has fallen, you’re left with a sense of loss, because you know you’re heading into the barren season of winter.

But a funny thing happens when a tree has lost its leaves: you can now see things that you didn’t know were there before.

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