Musings + Essays


By: Jen Shoop

*Image above of the one and only Christy Turlington. I’ll have what she’s having.

I learned a new word the other day: eunoia. Eunoia is Greek for — well, there is no precise translation in English, but it refers to the sense of friendship and goodwill between a speaker and an audience. The claim of this new word shuttled me into a couple of different orbits of thought. First, I mused: eunoia: a word for the aspiration that underpins the writing of this blog. I tapped over to a mission statement I’ve been editing for going on a decade now and added it to the mix. Y’all have goodwill in spades, and I am determined to return the favor. Second, I thought: I’d like to adapt this concept to the realm of literary criticism. There are books that feel gracious to their readers and books that feel downright cruel to them, whether stemming from mechanical decisions (i.e., abrupt and confusing shifts in narration) or subject matter (I am still not over the emotional melee that this unbearably difficult book elicited). Of course, sad, hard, truthful stories need to be told. But sometimes, we move from “sad and hard” to grief-peddling and emotionally exploitative. And sometimes we are forced into nonlinear narratives for no ostensible reason save for ornamentation. At any rate, the degree to which eunoia is established between a book and its audience will remain in my mind as a useful barometer for measuring the pleasantness of reading a given work. Patchett’s novels, I think, rank highly on the eunoia spectrum. Patchett is good to me, her writing balm and breeze. Is it melodramatic to say that I have needed her voice this past year? Have in fact leaned on the grace and sprawl of her prose? There is something about reading her books that feels similar to watching ants thread through a patch of soil by my bare feet, or rain drip from the shocking green of a post-rain tree: a quiet, connected-to-the-world kind of release. It is no understatement to say that reading The Dutch House was a high point of 2020.

Finally, as I was searching for approximate translations of the word in English, I came across this happy little site dedicated to “words that don’t translate.” Oo, what a treasure for us word-hoarders. A few favorites I had to jot down from this site and a few similar ones I came across:

Abditory: A place into which you can disappear; a hiding place

Sturmfrei: Having the house or flat to oneself

Yuputka: A word made for walking in the woods at night, it’s the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin

Taraadin: A happy solution for everyone

Sobremesa: The moment after eating a meal when the food is gone but the conversation is still flowing at the table

However, this word can go ahead and stay in untranslated German forever: Rabenmutter: A bad mom. (!) I mean, really!


+Words I hate.

+Guys. I had been eyeing this pretty Sir dress and then I found this incredibly similar style for $20 and jumped on it. It’s on its way to me now! What is going on with H&M right now?! SUCH GOOD FINDS.

+I had to order this smocked dinosaur backpack for micro. Meep. He won’t be starting his twos program until January, but I had to jump on it.

+Adorable quilted makeup bags to fill with all my favorite beauty products.

+Oo! This navy eyelet reminds me of SEA!

+I like the length and clean lines of these shorts. Pair with a sophisticated blouse to elevate the look.

+Zimmermann vibes for under $100.

+PSA: super cute and reasonably-priced swimwear from Charlie Holiday.

+Men’s swim trunks in great colors at a reasonable price. Like the shorter length.

+Minnow’s latest swimwear pattern is SO cute!

+Lake’s latest dress design is REALLY good.

+OK, this fitness skirt is amazing.

+Cute nap mat for a toddler.

+Do you consider yourself a late bloomer?

+A fantastic headband for a bride to be to wear to a wedding-related event.

+More of my favorite headbands here.

+Hydrangea print dress for a little lady.

+This is just the best cocktail ever — probably best-suited for warm weather, but we have been drinking them all pandemic long.

+Seriously fun table lamp. More great lighting options here.

+If you’re new here, come introduce yourself!

+Take your loved ones out for a picnic on one of these gorgeous quilts!

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12 thoughts on “Eunoia.

  1. Thank you for introducing us to! I am a sucker for word and name sites, newsletters, etc. — love this topic so much! I have to agree with all of the ‘sobremesa’ love — it’s my favorite part of mealtimes.

    I’m crazy for that tie-front LAKE dress! So cute!


    1. I know, I had such a good time soaking up all of those words the other afternoon. Sobremesa is SUCH a good gap-filler in my vocabulary!!!


  2. Oh I love that word “sobremesa”! It evokes so many childhood/growing up memories for me, being part of a big family — we always had these big dinners that lingered on through the evening and almost always included me being in stitches from laughing at one of my brother’s jokes. In fact I love the word so much that a few years ago I started a WordPress site with the word “sobremesa” in the domain but I haven’t done anything with it yet, haha!

    Another word for you: “gigil” (Tagalog). It’s when you have this almost unbearable amount of love/affection — usually for babies/little children and pets — and you just want to squeeze them hard (well not enough to hurt but you know what I mean). Or when a baby/young child/pet is just so unbearably cute. Not quite an exact definition but it’s the closest I can think of!

    1. PPS: (Haha) ” There is something about reading her books that feels similar to watching ants thread through a patch of soil by my bare feet, or rain drip from the shocking green of a post-rain tree: a quiet, connected-to-the-world kind of release.” Oh that is beautiful. I can connect to that image of rain so much, having spent many such moments in the sunroom in my childhood home, overlooking a lush garden, smelling the tropical rain. I need to read Ann Patchett! Her “Bel Canto” was highly reviewed too.

      1. You get it!! Yes, please read Patchett. I’m reading Bel Canto now and it’s interesting — people (even fervent Patchett fans) tend to love or hate it. I am only a partway through so will withhold total judgment but so far, I’d still urge “Dutch House” first.


    2. Oo, gigil is completely a word a relate to! Thanks for sharing that! Love that you have a claim on sobremesa — a good word to hang your hat on 🙂


    3. Ah – just read Bel Canto a few weeks back, after it was flagged on a Washington Post list of books about DC (although, this stretched the definition a bit – more along the diplomat/fancy political events theme). It was a slow build, but I really enjoyed it, especially the opera theme throughout. Haven’t been as wild about her other books (esp. Commonwealth), despite the many raves around here!

  3. Sobremesa!!! One of my favorite things ever. I have been listening to a new podcast called “Nurture vs Nurture” where the very charismatic Wendy Mogel, a social-clinical psychologist, sits down with a family for a therapy session. She gives them practical advice and perspective on their current challenges, and I find it so eye-opening (and slightly voyeuristic, in the best way.) At the end of each episode, she introduces listeners to an untranslatable word related to parenthood or family. I recommend for any parent, or anyone interested in family life. Wishing you a wonderful Wednesday!

    1. Wow – this podcast sounds moving and so instructive. Thanks for the suggestion!

      Sobremesa!!! I’m so glad I know that word!


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