At a loss for words. Envy on a grand scale.





My dear brother when he was a kid in Colombia, doing something on his Benotto bike that you can only do when you are a native speaker of the Spanish language.




As a native speaker of the Spanish language, I often come across words that simply don't exist in English. These gaps exist in every language, and when you come across them, you simply can't believe that they're there. While some words are borrowed and used verbatim to patch up those gaps in language (such as zeitgeist, although the meaning in English is different than the original in German. In its original form, the word refers to the "spirit of the times" in past tense exclusively, and can't be used for the present), other gaping linguistic holes remain wide open.

German vocabulary aside, I now ask you to consider the word estrenar in Spanish. It means to use something for the first time, but that's not the whole story. Estrenar is not merely using something for the first time, because it has greater implications, and largely speaks of the emotions behind that first use. Estrenar is what you do the day after christmas as a kid, when you ride your first bike for the first time (see picture of my brother above). On that day, you're full of joy, you are unstoppable, you feel like you could fly....what you're doing is not merely riding a new bike...you are estrenando. The word doesn't apply to a new mop, because the visceral experience (unless you're a mop connoisseur, I suppose) simply isn't there. When you saved up for years as an adult, and bought that new bike you've been dreaming about, and you ride it for the first time, you're not merely christening it, the bike is not just on its maiden voyage, it's not just making its debut (itself not an english word)... what you're doing is that you are estrenando.

Other similar gaps exist in English when it comes to Spanish terms like morbo (a dark fascination, usually having to do with death or violence. "Morbid", as an adjective, describes that type of fascination, but there's no noun for it), muda (a change of clothes, usually underpants), manco (one-armed man, regardless of how that arm was lost), and perhaps one of the most significant words in Spanish that does not exist in English is....sobremesa. That word refers to the time spent with friends after dinner talking once you're done eating. Sobremesa is often much longer than dinner, its a social event. The fact that some of these words don't exist in a certain language are flukes, but some may have cultural reasons for not existing. Although I don't even rank as an amateur linguist, I do believe that the word Sobremesa is one such term. Not every culture makes sitting around after dinner such a priority that a whole word must exist to explain it. But the concept of estrenar is universal, and yet the word isn't. Similarly, I'd like to tell you about a word that, to my knowledge, doesn't exist in any language. Perhaps it doesn't because it refers to a rare sentiment that not many in the world have had...but it's one which many readers of this blog probably have felt. Allow me to tell you about that feeling.



One of the greatest bands in history is immortalized by my brother and me (albeit in chalk) on the climb up to Arcalis




Walking up the last climb of the Tour de France stage to Arcalis in 2009, my brother and I looked on as riders of every shape and size passed us on their bikes. As I saw these people climbing slowly by us, my mood began to change. At first I was elated. Here I was, at the Tour de France with my brother. A lifelong dream had come true. Soon however, I began to have feelings of jealousy. I too wanted to ride that day, that climb in particular. As I saw more and more people on bikes, I was left with resentment. Why the hell did they get to ride. They were no better than me, and yet here I was walking while they proudly wore their tight underpants and fancy shoes. Those bastards. For an instant, I jokingly considered knocking one of them over, and taking their bike. Like an animal going after a piece of meat, I was nearly considering both assaulting and robbing a fellow cyclist (two things I would never actually do mind you)....but such was the envy that I felt at that moment....and yet envy doesn't begin to explain how I felt. Since I'm superior to most of you in many ways, I'm happy to report that I don't normally succumb to things like envy...but it can happen (like when my friend Alejandro got new Uhlsport goalie gloves in the 6th grade). This time, the emotion was nearly making me consider criminal acts against my fellow leotard-wearing cyclists. So this was beyond envy...this was cycling-inspired envy on a grand scale, which was largely informed by having first listened to the Tour de France on the radio as a kid. This moment in time was fueled by a life full of memories. So what I felt was not resentment either. It was something that there's no word for...so perhaps I should make up that word. It was a sort of bike envy...so maybe something like "blenvy". I don't know. Whatever it was, it was a very strong and specific emotion. It was the very same thing that I felt last week in Medellin as I watched crowds of cyclists young and old battle their way up the Alto De Las Palmas on their bikes. As I looked at them, I imagined the feeling these people would enjoy once they arrived to their destination, the distant top of the mountain that I would not get to see because I didn't have a bike. They would be exhausted, but elated as a result of the ride, a mix of emotions that is common (but not exclusive) to cyclists. They would be....exhalated, and I would be left at the base of the climb to deal with my blenvy.