Untranslatable Words #37: Oodal - Couples' fake anger

Hello peeps! @ailindigo here :)

This is the 37th week of Untranslatable Words and we're moving again to Asia, especifically to India! This week we're talking about an interesting gesture I think all of us do.

This week's word is the tamil: oodal.

Gif by Wordstuck


When I found this word it really left me wondering how we human came up with a gesture like this to express affection and how kind if contradictory it is, lol.

Oodal ஊடல் is that exaggerated, melodramatic anger and sulking that occurs between two lovers when they try to get easily offended (usually over something inconsequential) in an attempt to get the other one to apologize first. It is a facet of affection and a way to strengthen their bonds. *

When I first found this I couldn't help wondering why do we do this? lol it's kinda odd to show affection is a way like this, since I think it's something all people do around the globe, the more I think of it the odder it gets. Though, the origin and explanation of this word in Tamil language is very intersting and almost mind-opening.

Oodal (ஊடல்) is a small conflict between lovers (unmarried or married! In Tamil literature however, it is usually between married couples). The term originates from the root 'Oodu' (ஊடு) ‘to intervene' or 'to go through'. Obviously, it refers to something (the conflict) that comes in between the couple. *

In Tamil Sangam literature there are songs on Oodal ranging from a small friendly fight to a full blown clash (that might have resulted in divorce, if they've had the choice at that age and time!); and Agam grammar dictates that Oodal should be between married couple. *

Illustration by Emma Block

Now Thiruvalluvar, a celebrated Tamil poet and philosopher, gives a new and path-breaking face to this Oodal in his world famous work Thirukkural. Firstly, he brings the Oodal away from mistress and prostitutes. Then, he gives new and interesting settings for the heroine to get mad the hero. He dedicates and entire Chapter (Adhikaaram) to this new "ideas" for the heroine to get mad the hero - the chapter is titled "Pulavi Nunukkam", which literally translates to 'minuteness (in reason) of feigning anger'. *

According to Thiruvalluvar, love (and love making) that comes after a small fight is more sweet. (couplet 1330), love life would become monotonous and boring without such small fights (ct. 1306), these fights/conflicts should be kept small, should not be allowed to go for long or get strong, like adding salt to food (no salt in food will not taste good, but too much salt will spoil the taste!) (ct. 1302), those who lose in a feigned fight are actually the ones who have won in love (that they'll have an upperhand during the mating that follows) (ct. 1327). Interesting and less odd now, I think. *

I even find it funny that we tend to do this with our partners and other loved ones, even though to me it's still very odd and wouldn't do it much, I reckon it's a cute little demonstration of affection and I think I see why it's needed in a relationship.

What do you think? Do you and your partner have oodal moments? Please feel free to let me know what you think in the comments!

Thank you very much for passing by! And if you have an Untranslatable Word you'd like to suggest, please don't hesitate to do so! :)

Previous Untranslatable Words:
#1: Torschlusspanik#11: sankofa#21: xibipíío - how the Pirahã deconverted a Christian man
#2: Mono no aware#12: annus mirabilis#22: aduantas - rambling between two nuances
#3: Rasāsvāda#13: voorpret#23: Eh - Canada's proud politeness
#4: Cavoli riscaldati#14: pikit mata#24: Janteloven - the egalitarian nature of Nordic countries
#5: Nefelibata#15: ranorànilac#25: Dadirri - finding the answers by contemplating ourselves
#6: Sturmfrei#16: gagung#26: catalepsy - doubting my senses
#7: Jootha#17: gumusservi#27: kiasu - Singaporeans's survival instinct
#8: bilita mpash#18: yaourter#28: dustsceawung - We are stardust
#9: resfeber#19: nunchi#29: yoisho - encouragement and reminder of strength
#10: Vāde mēcum#20: flâneur#30: hyggelig - Denmark's way of creating intimacy in cozy sorroundings

#31: orenda - God as a power of nature's energy
#32: ishin-denshin - Japanese telepathy
#33: gökotta - connecting with nature and ourselves
#34: kalpa - the longest time measurement
#35: shěnměi píláo - When love fades away
#36: Hyppytyynytyydytys - Finns' relaxed way of life by crossculture

This content is part of a new series to get more people interested on languages and how they, perception and culture are related!

Exclusively for the Hive Cross Culture Community, the community for language exchange and cross-cultural purposes.

If you'd like to be part of the discussion don't hesitate to hop into the Hive Language and Culture Exchange Discord server! As well as subscribing to the Hive Cross Culture Community so you don't miss any new word comming ;) We'll be sharing a new Untranslatable Word each week!

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