The Right Words

After earning a Ph.D. in linguistics, Suzette Haden Elgin invented the language Láadan for a science fiction novel. What makes the language unique is that it’s designed particularly to express the perceptions of women:

  • widazhad: to be pregnant late in term and eager for the end
  • radiídin: a non-holiday, a holiday more work that it’s worth, a time allegedly a holiday but actually so much a burden because of work and preparations that it is a dreaded occasion; especially when there are too many guests and none of them help
  • rathom: a “non-pillow,” one who lures another to trust and rely on them but has no intention of following through, a “lean on me so I can step aside and let you fall” person
  • rathóo: a non-guest, someone who comes to visit knowing perfectly well that they are intruding and causing difficulty
  • ramimelh: to refrain from asking, with evil intent; especially when it is clear that someone badly wants the other to ask
  • bala: anger with reason, with someone to blame, which is not futile
  • bina: anger with no reason, with no one to blame, which is not futile
  • ab: love for one liked but not respected
  • doóledosh: pain or loss which comes as a relief by virtue of ending the anticipation of its coming

One word that has no English equivalent is doroledim, which means “sublimation with food accompanied by guilt about that sublimation”: “Say you have an average woman. She has no control over her life. She has little or nothing in the way of a resource for being good to herself, even when it is necessary. She has family and animals and friends and associates that depend on her for sustenance of all kinds. She rarely has adequate sleep or rest; she has no time for herself, no space of her own, little or no money to buy things for herself, no opportunity to consider her own emotional needs. She is at the beck and call of others, because she has these responsibilities and obligations and does not choose to (or cannot) abandon them. For such a woman, the one and only thing she is likely to have a little control over for indulging her own self is FOOD. When such a woman overeats, the verb for that is ‘doroledim.’ (And then she feels guilty, because there are women whose children are starving and who do not have even THAT option for self-indulgence …)”

A full dictionary is here.