Knowing shemomedjamo from your kummerspeck...just one great use of the internet

Photos showing under women's skirts found on mobile phone

Photos showing under women's skirts found on mobile phone - Credit: Su Anderson

I’m meant to be researching an article about the Queen when I fall into the internet, writes Matt Gaw.

Not, unfortunately, in some cool Tron-like way with futuristic motorbikes and a day-glo onesie, but in the sense that I’m following promoted link after link. And I can’t stop.

I wander from Bizarre Things You Can Actually Buy on Etsy (foetus soap anyone?) to quizzes on How Ikea My Life Is (probably too much) and How Well I Know the Counties of Wales (A not too shoddy 9/12, but I struggle to locate Denbighshre).

The rest of the working day drifts away as I try to convince myself that an intimate knowledge of The Crimes You Never Knew Celebrities Committed could somehow yield something for the article.

I miss lunch, several phone calls and emerge rubbing my eyes while my wife finishes the dinner.

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I feel like I’ve been chewed up and spat out.

Later as we’re eating, I confess that I’ve managed to waste a large chunk of my day and all I have produced is a silly joke about a Nazi salute and something unusable about the Queen’s Corgis.

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As we talk, I notice I’m not really hungry anymore but am still forking food down my maw.

“I’m stuffed, but this is gorgeous”, I say. “I can’t stop.”

My wife looks up from her magazine. “There’s a Georgian word for that. It means something like I accidentally ate the whole thing.”

Returning to my computer minutes later, it seems she’s right.

Despite the Americanised west’s gluttonous extremes – a civilisation of eating contests, deep-fried Mars bars and dessert pizza – it seems it was the former Soviet republic which came up with the more than a mouthful word of “shemomedjamo”. I commit it to memory

But there are more words to feast on. Following another link I discover another food-related gem, the German “kummerspeck”. Translating as ‘grief bacon’ (I know!) it means to gain weight from emotional overeating.

I’m hooked. More links and more words follow. The evening turns to night and although my article is still sitting there untouched, my life somehow feels richer.

The internet has had a pretty bad press when it comes to language. As with the advent of the printing press 500 years ago and the arrival of television, technology has often been maligned as being harmful or destructive to language. The beauty of words seemingly twisted, abused and chipped away by different forms of media. The hashtag. The LOLs. The YOLOs. They’ve all put language “on the huh” (as some in these parts might say).

In 2003 the national press were quick to publicise an exam paper apparently written, OMG, completely in text speak (it later turned out to be a hoax) and there has been talk of a “degree of crisis” in English.

But in reality language isn’t really harmed by the march of technology, it just changes and adapts, fluid to our needs and culture – sponging up what’s useful, while squeezing out the redundant. But there’s more, as linguistics expert Professor David Crystal put it: “The internet enables users across a neighbourhood, country or continent to share expressions, forming speech communities or users that previously were more localised.”

Later in the week a friend comes round for drinks.

Ten minutes before he arrives I find myself pacing around, putting music on, tidying stuff pointlessly and going to the window to see if he’s arrived. I even open the door and pretend I’m looking for the cat while scanning the length of the street.

I’ve always been like it and had assumed that it was just a strange, slightly annoying personal quirk. But thanks to the power of language, I now know I’m not alone. The knowledge that the Inuit have a word for this sense of restless anticipation while waiting for a visitor (Iksuarpok) is somehow comforting.

A bottle of wine later and after a brief discussion of torschlusspanik (a German word meaning “gate-closing panic” used to describe the fear of diminishing opportunities that come with age) I mention to my friend how I’d succumbed to click-bait and spent half a day doing quizzes and watching dancing cats.

“Maybe I’m becoming a hikikomori” I suggest, explaining that it’s a Japanese term used to describe people who have withdrawn from social life to essentially exist on the internet.

He laughs and puts down his glass. “It’s a good word, but I think there’s an English word that works just as well.

“You’re probably just a bit lazy.”

Hours after he’s left I come up with a brilliant response. It’s a case of what the French call l’espirit de l’escalier (literally stairwell wit – that frustrating retort that comes after you’ve left).

Thank God for technology, I think as I pick up my phone and start texting him.

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