Sunday, April 6, 2014

"Fernweh" and the Difficulty to Find the Perfect Word

In the novel I'm currently writing, I planned to give the main character an emotion called "Fernweh".

The book is about the agony of a town that lost its main economic supplier of work and the hero should already have an underlying motivation to go before he is forced to. 

That is where "Fernweh" comes into place, but there is no word in english that seems to fit the concept. The word means longing or a yen for distant places. Not for a specific place, but for discovering and exploring something new. Imagine a nice summer day and you spot a plane on a spotless sky asking yourself where it possibly goes. And suddenly you want to be on that plane, wherever it goes, you want to be gone right now. But it is a bit more than just longing, there is also a part suffering; enjoyable suffering similar to melancholy.

So let's see what insight translators provide. Leo gives me "itchy feet", "wanderlust" and "yen to see distant places", in others I find "travel bug" and in Wiktionary "far-sickness". Linguee is mostly showing "wanderlust".

"Itchy feet" and "travel bug" seem to pronounce more to the lust to travel, less to the longing, the suffering.  On the other side, "far-sickness" emphasizes too much on the suffering, like "home-sickness" is not enjoyable at all. I'm not even sure it is a official word. Wiktionary has it and there are a lot of google hits for it, however Longman doesn't carry it. Yen to see distant places is more of an explanation than a precise term, as if you would replace mansion with "very large house".

Leaves me with "wanderlust". C'mon, "wanderlust"! Ok, you might not understand my issue here. I understand, "wanderlust" is the right word. As per Longman and Merriam-Webster it is "a strong desire to travel to different places". I really do understand it. But hearing the term "wanderlust" with its roots in the 19th century german, sounds to me very much like enjoying hiking. There is even the hiking song we sang when we were out on a hike with our parents "hiking is the miller's joy". In my ears, this is so the wrong word, but apparently it is the right word.

So, there are two solutions for this problem. Either I can convince Longman and Merriam-Webster as well as the whole english speaking community that actually "Fernweh" should be taken instead of "wanderlust". Or I go with wanderlust is the perfect word. Well, I think I have to embrace the fact that it's who has to change. And it probably won't be the last time. 

Any suggestions, thoughts, better ideas?

Your writer in a foreign land.

No comments:

Post a Comment