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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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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Christmas Fruitcake Solution

Do you like Christmas fruitcake? Or do you just pretend to? Some people look forward to making or receiving fruitcakes at this time of year. Other people dread the prospect of eating fruitcake yet again.

If you’ve been faking enjoyment of Christmas fruitcake all these years and would really rather not eat any more of it, I think I have a solution for you:

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The Most Dazzling Christmas Light

Photo by Paul Vladuchick on Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

What’s your favourite Christmas tradition? Is it exchanging gifts, baking special desserts, decorating the tree, or perhaps wearing ugly Christmas sweaters?

For many of us, our most cherished Christmas tradition probably involves lights, whether they’re on your own Christmas tree, or decorating houses in your neighbourhood. Some people go all out, putting tens of thousands of lights on their home, as in the example pictured above. Apparently, the interior of that house is decorated with the same exuberance, and with all the lights on, the homeowner can’t use the microwave without blowing all the fuses.

This season is inextricably linked to lights, but might we have missed the most important light of all?

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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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How Larch Trees Are Like Jesus

Larch Trees, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Photo by Steve Jurvetson on Flickr CC BY-2.0

It’s easy to categorize trees, isn’t it? Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the autumn. Coniferous trees bear cones and keep their needles throughout the year. It’s simple to tell them apart.

Case closed, right?

But what about the larch tree? It bears cones and has needles like a conifer, but the needles drop off each autumn like a deciduous tree.

So which is it, coniferous or deciduous?

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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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Turkey Hotline

Impending disaster! Photo by Matt Shalvatis on Flickr
CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

For over 30 years now, the Butterball company has hosted a hotline for those encountering problems or questions when cooking their Thanksgiving or Christmas turkeys.

The experts at their turkey talk-line answer calls from over 100,000 people per year, desperate cooks mystified by the process of roasting a turkey and needing advice. Usually, the caller is unsure how to thaw the turkey, or how to calculate the cooking time.

Sometimes, however, the problems are a bit more complicated…not to mention hilarious.

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Feline Prison Break

Photo by Mark Turnauckas on Flickr CC BY 2.0

Did you hear about the “prison break” at a Houston, Texas animal shelter recently?

A cunning criminal had been opening the heavy door of the senior cats’ enclosure for several nights in a row, setting the captives free to roam the shelter. Each morning, workers at the Friends for Life Animal Rescue would arrive to find the door mysteriously opened, and would have to wrangle the 15 cats back into their room.

The staff were stumped at who could be responsible for the feline jail break. It was only when they looked at footage from the building’s security cameras that they were able to crack the case.

The identity of the culprit came as a shock.

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