Toby taught me a new word in Norwegian today. We were having a conversation about languages and how you can express certain things more precisely in one language verses another. Toby speaking more than 4 languages was more than understanding of what I meant by that. I gave the example of one of my favorite spanish words, ‘tranquilo’ which translates directly to ‘tranquil’ but it’s meaning is so much deeper. It’s a way of being, a mood, and is a way of life in sleepy little beach towns in Central America.
Friluftsliv. It means literally: Free-Air-Life but again, the real meaning is so much deeper. Like any of these words, they loose meaning when they are forced into another language. Toby helped me understand the meaning by changing the words around to “open air life,” We can get a general understanding of the meaning right off the bat, just as we know the “meaning” of the word tranquil. But in Norway, it goes deeper.
It means living in the open air, but living ‘for’ the open air. You may be stuck in an office all week, but you look forward to spending your weekend outdoors. You could drive your car, but you walk. It means that your heart is in the fresh air, and you will do whatever you can to be there. I guess in a way, it combines a few of our american words. Like the over used and bastardized environmental word ‘Green’ and the personality trait ‘outdoorsy.’ You could probably even throw in a little bit of ‘inspired.’
We may not be able to pronounce ‘fruluftsliv’ with any sort of accuracy, but we can certainly make an effort to live by it. I’ve seen the effect of the word, even before I knew it existed. When at 53 years old, my dad suddenly decided to become a surfer and get in shape, or in the way my 83 year old grandmother still goes hiking after a recent hip surgery.
There is a power that language holds that is revealed to those people like Toby who speak a number of them. Like my friend Wade taught me, Language is not just a code that is designed to explain the world, it is a way of seeing your world.
5 years ago