One of the best smells in the world is that of rain. The moment before the drops of water begin to fall you can take a deep breath and it’s like being aligned to earth.
That smell is called petrichor. It was coined in 1964 by CSIRO scientists. The scent was proven to be a real thing. Many decades later university researchers managed to capture the smell on a slow-motion camera.
As the rain hits the earth it releases oils or decaying organic matter – essentially molecules left in rock or dry earth. The smell before the rain is ozone. Both are worthy of bottling.
In my wanderlust, I have visited many unique places.
When retelling the stories of these adventures there are many times that I cannot find the words to adequately explain how I felt in that moment sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon, or the feel of the sand between my toes on a Caribbean island or haphazardly kicking stones as I walked along a gravel road into a small village in Guatemala.
Living with Swiss and Norwegian exchange students over the past six months, I’ve started to discover that some feelings, words or experiences cannot be translated.
There have been many times when one of my host sons would ask for the English word to describe a feeling or a situation – of which we did not have any. This would take us down the path of translation.
The German word for gloves is handschuh or hand shoes, brustwarzen is breast warts or in English, it would be nipples, and glowing pear or glühbirne is a light bulb.
German or Swiss-German is not always a beautiful language to hear aloud yet the meaning can sometimes take your breath away.
Verschlimmbessern means to make something worse when trying to improve an outcome. This can be used to describe my baking and some awkward conversations that left me wanting to find a time machine.
And all those times you wake up the next day after drinking a little too much and you instantly cringe or regret your actions – that’s called schnapsidee or, translated, an idea you had while drunk that you’ll probably forget.
The discovery that there are words to describe feelings you sometimes think you are the only person to feel that way – for example the fear of running out of time to achieve life goals or torschlusspanik – makes you feel more connected to the world. It’s a reminder that you’re not alone even if you don’t know how to say the word properly, you know and have lived the meaning.