How words take on lives of their own

Kaunis tyttö

Kauniin tyttön hartia

I don’t remember when kaunis became beautiful; all I know is that it didn’t start out that way.

“How do you say beautiful in Finnish?”
“Kaunis”
“Cow-ou-nis? Seriously? It sounds like cow.”

And there it was. My first reaction to the word beautiful in Finnish: it sounds like cow. (Sorry – I cringe at the thought.)

It’s really remarkable what’s happened to my brain in the time between when I said that back in 2009 and today. At some point, the concept of beauty got wrapped around the sounds in kaunis. Now when I hear words starting with kaun-, the root of beauty, I immediately associate them with beauty:

Kauneus – beauty
Kauneshoitola – beauty salon
Kauniita sanoja – beautiful words
Kaunis päivä – beautiful day
Kauniita unia – beautiful dreams (aka. sweet dreams)

Not through the English translation, but with the concept of beauty all on its own.

Beauty elicits a deep reaction within us. It fills us with emotions, sometimes to the point of overwhelm. And emotion helps us learn, positive emotion especially. We feel, therefore we remember.

[bctt tweet=”Positive emotions help us learn. We feel, therefore we remember.”]

If I really pick my brain, I can remember one of the songs I loved so much when I moved to Finland was Kaunis päivä by Anna Puu. Sure, friends laughed at me for my love of mainstream pop songs, but what did I care? I was (unknowingly) internalizing beauty!

Funny enough, other than the title, Anna only sings kaunis once in the entire song… and on a bitter sweet ending after she’s been left by someone. Yet she is hopeful, and the sentiment is memorable. So we learn.

Or here with lyrics but you don’t need the lyrics to hear the last word. Just see what emotions it brings up.

Have you had a similar experience with foreign concepts taking on a life of their own? Do you know when or how it happened? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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