Saturday, April 08, 2017

Gigil, Gemas and Gondogol

Sometimes two markedly different cultures find a word for a feeling that eludes the rest of us.

Today I want to introduce you to the Tagalog word, Gigil, which describes the irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze someone for no other reason than because you love them.

My guess is that this is what gives way to the grand old tradition of Roughhousing, in which fathers play rough with their kids, daughters and sons alike, and both parties thoroughly enjoy the experience.

You’d never hug your iPhone, no matter how dear it was to you, but people and pets are known to bring out these instincts in us, where emotion is so heightened that the only way to express it is by squeezing and crushing someone and hoping they get the hint that they are loved.

Have you ever experienced Gigil or behaved Gigil?




The Indonesian word, Gemas, is a close cousin of Gigil. But Gemas is not limited to those you love or cherish. You might, for instance, see a kid in a pram, and think they are oh-cho-chweet and that the only way in which you can suitably express your admiration is by pinching their cheeks or hugging and squeezing them until they cry for help.

Long ago, I had my first experience of a more serious version of Gemas.

I knew someone who found babies irresistible. She loved infants and toddlers alike so much that she would say to any unsuspecting baby she met, “You are so cute, I could eat you.” 

The first time I heard her words, I was so horrified that I made a mental note not to let her within two hundred feet of my own offspring, whenever they happened to come along.

Given her stated intentions, there was bound to be trouble.

Have you been the victim of Gemas?



Which brings me to Gondogol, another kind of trouble. Gondogol is a Bengali word (from India), which describes the kind of trouble that you can’t put a finger on.

When Hercule Poirot goes around sniffing at the scene of a crime, he knows that some kind of Gondogol is afoot, but he has no clue about the nature of the Gondogol.

When habitually hyperactive and noisy children suddenly turn very quiet, parents begin to fret; they know that some serious Gondogol is going to be unleashed, and that it won’t be pretty


Have you ever sensed that Gondogol is about? 




14 comments:

  1. Gemas is a word I am very familiar with as my mother used it a lot (she's from Singapore and Malay is her national language). When my daughter was little, I made her wear payals with bells, when the bells stopped then I knew some Gondogol was afoot.

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    1. Hi, Suzy, good to know that you are familiar with Gemas. The payals are a good idea to know what our little ones are up to, so we can get at least some warning of impending Gondogol.

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  2. Hi Cynthia - what wonderful words ... Filipino, Indonesian and a Bengali word .. fascinating and I can certainly relate to all - I know some people are completely besotted with anyone's baby - wonderful to read Suzy's comment re her daughter ... fun - cheers Hilary

    http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/g-is-for-goose-gobbling-or-otherwise.html

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    1. Hilary, I had no idea that so many people would relate to Gemas. For me, it is Gigil. Motherhood has made me a better hugger.

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  3. Great words that I hadn't heard of before. Gondogol even sounds like trouble is brewing.

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    1. Oh, yes, Finn. You can sense the aptness of Gondogol even before you know what it is.

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  4. Replies
    1. Thank you, Zalka, hope you can include it in your vocabulary.

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  5. Our whole family behaves gigil around our cats. Poor cats. I have also heard the expression, "You're so cute, I could eat you with a spoon!"

    G is for Gardasil—Is It Safe?

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    1. Poor cats indeed! I wonder how they feel about the gigil.
      Oh yes, Gemas is so common, I wonder why English never felt the need for a word.

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  6. I have an aunt who definitely had gigil. It was always a challenge to get into her home without getting your cheeks pinched. After which she would try to stuff you with food. My grandson has recently discovered pinching so it must be a gene thing. As for gemas, I tell him all the time he is so cute I could eat him up. He thinks it is hilarious.

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    1. Denise, I like all forms of Gigil, except cheek pulling. I am glad your little grandson is amused by gemas.
      Birthday coming up, right?

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