I've found it! At last! And of course, you are all asking what this great discovery might be. In truth it probably doesn't sound very exciting, but to me it's the answer - well almost - to a question that's been nagging at me ever since I came to the Netherlands.
The question is this: how does the Dutch word gezellig
translate into English?
It's a question that many of us English imports ponder as it's such a great word, and it covers so many situations. You can be gezellig
with your friends, or have a gezellig
house. You can also find the atmosphere somewhere very gezellig
, and gezelligheid
is something to aim for when creating urban dwellings and their environs.
You've probably got the idea by now, yes? Well, no. We've tried all sorts of possible adjectives to describe the obviously pleasant feelings attached to being gezellig.
For example, there's 'cozy', but tell your corporate friends their conference is cozy...hmmm, I don't think so. On the other hand, your house can be cozy, yes, but a wild and wonderful party? Perhaps not.
Well what about atmospheric? The same applies.."I went to such an atmsopheric party last week...". Not quite hey? Then there are others, such as friendly, charming, comfortable etc but none of them works in every situation.
Then last night, I found the truth. I thought so, anyway. In a marvellous moment of sheer enlightenment. I was teaching a class of business students, and at the end of the lesson one of them said he'd heard this word used last week and wondered what it meant. Scratching through his note book, he carefully read out the word 'conviviality'. I looked at him, I thought for a moment and then I smiled the smile of one who has found the meaning of life itself.
"Willem," I said "it means gezelligheid, and when you find yourself in convivial company, that's the same as finding it gezellig."
"Aaah," he said, sharing the sweetness of the moment. "I've often wondered what word to use for gezellig."
Now, though, I'm sitting here, imagining Willem's future with his newly acquired language skill and insight. Our Willem will be going to people's houses, and looking around admiringly, he will say "hmmm, very convivial, what!"
Okay, I agree. It does sound a bit pompous doesn't it? It may well be true,of course, but not really what you'd say to your bosom buddies and life long friends, and after all, can a room itself be.....?
Maybe the quest isn't quite over yet.
Does anyone out there know the informal word for convivial?