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josie's avatar

Is there a single word, in any language, that means what I am trying to describe in my Details?

Asked by josie (22423 points ) December 11th, 2013

As an example, Schadenfreude is a German word that has no real English counterpart, so we borrow it to describe when people feel gratification by other’s misfortune.

In talking about gift giving at Christmas, a friend made the following observation…That there is sort of an ideal “sweet spot” that is fun to experience at Christmas. It happens when you give a gift that you are really excited about giving, and the recipient is equally excited when they open it up and see it. There is sort of a perfect balance of satisfaction at that point-a mutual simultaneous gratification. It does not happen that often, but it is really cool when it does.

Is there a word, in any language, that describes that experience?

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17 Answers

JimTurner's avatar


CWOTUS's avatar

I go with the classics in this case: Joy.

LuckyGuy's avatar

In Japanese it might be “nakagaii”. Literally: the insides of both people are good. Or both people understand each other perfectly.

glacial's avatar

I feel like there must be an Inuit word for this, but I can’t seem to find one. Nice find, @LuckyGuy!

LuckyGuy's avatar

@glacial Thanks, but I didn’t have to find it. I speak Japanese and use the term occasionally.

dougiedawg's avatar

Synchronicity comes close;)

tups's avatar

Maybe the Swedish word lagom. I’m not sure if that’s what you’re trying to describe, but it might be. I am bad at linking, but it’s easily googled!

ibstubro's avatar

“Verismilitude” does it for me, in that you both intended gratification and both appear to have achieved it really and truly.

DWW25921's avatar

Elation? That’s all I got.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@tups Lagom is the equivalent of “so-so” in English: Luke warm, moderate, neither here nor there. I don’t think lagom is it.

janbb's avatar

Not one word but win-win comes to mind. I also like synchronicity.

tups's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Wrong definiton of lagom. Lagom is a positive thing.

Smitha's avatar

Malicious joy.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@tups My experience has been that the usage of lagom is neutral-to-positive, often used as a synonym for mediocre, but this is changing. Mediocrity, which produces moderation, is not necessarily considered a bad thing in Swedish culture as it often is in our newer, more boisterous, competitive, often immoderate, breakaway frontier society that has been blessed from the beginning with a wealth of land and resources and climate that traditionally afforded us the luxury of individualism. We have always valued and taken the risks of innovation, and at times to be immoderate—all things that brought us early success. We consider mediocrity a state of boredom, or a result of poor performance, both enemies to a society bent on being the spearhead of success. The Swedes have had a completely different take on mediocrity, but are quickly changing. During my tenure among the Swedes, I found this interesting, and I am going to seize this opportunity to write about it.

We place no value on mediocrity, whereas mediocrity, which produces moderation, can facilitate stability in a society constantly at risk of starvation with a two to three month growing season, a brutal, paralyzing winter, and the traditional enemy,—the Rus, then the tsarists, then the Soviets—Russians, always breathing down their neck. Immoderation, individualism, and innovation all invited risks to this ancient culture, risks they could not afford until the twentieth century, which brought them wealth and democracy under a liberal constitutional monarchy.

There is an old Swedish saying called, “Jänte’s Lag,” which was considered good advice to children—advice that Americans would find appalling: Spiken som väcker det huvudet först, knullas ner. Translation: The nail that sticks it’s head up first, will be pounded down. This comes from a society that, before the twentieth century, valued strict collective order under top-down monarchic rule over individualism and innovation in order to maintain stability and survive their hostile environment and enemies. Moderation, a product of mediocrity, is valued by the collective under constant high risk, as the opposite, immoderation by any individual or group, can easily bring disaster.

Things have changed immensely since the Swedes became a wealthy democracy under a constitutional monarchy—Jänte’s Lag is now considered by the modern Swede a curious maxim of a time not so long past—but the remnants of millenniums of tradition, going back beyond far beyond the Vikings, still lingers.

That’s my take on it, anyway.

tups's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus I am curious to whom you are referring to when you say “we” and if you are including me into that definition. I would think that you are talking about Americans. Let me inform you that I am Danish and therefore share some kind of cultural bond with the Swedes. Janteloven is Danish for Jänte’s Lag in Swedish is actually mostly a Danish thing. It is as follows:

You’re not to think you are anything special.
You’re not to think you are as good as us.
You’re not to think you are smarter than us.
You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than us.
You’re not to think you know more than us.
You’re not to think you are better than us.
You’re not to think you are good at anything.
You’re not to laugh at us.
You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
You’re not to think you can teach us anything.

I have been writing all day and am not in the mood to explaining this to you right now. I appreciate your take on Swedish culture, but I would like to know what kind of first-hand knowledge you have.

Lagom is probably not the word to describe what the OP was looking for, but I wouldn’t say it describes mediocrity either. The last time I spoke to a Swedish person, she explained it this way: “It’s like when you are pouring milk into coffee, lagom is not too much, not too little, but the right amount.”

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

^ Well, hej there. Sweden was my home from 1982 through 1992. Yes, I’ve heard lagom used that way as well.

tups's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Alright, I appreciate your two cents. Og hej!

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