Finally, a word that is almost universal, one that we all have a deep need for at some point or the other in our lives, whether we are about to speak in public, or whether we are about to be questioned and all eyes and ears are trained on us, or simply on occasions when we are nervous about asking someone something.
Let me introduce you to Harkla, Swedish in origin, a word which describes the little coughing noise one makes while clearing the throat.
In fact, it isn’t just the speaker who needs to do a Harkla. The moment a gathering is asked to keep silent, everyone is suddenly faced with the irresistible desire to Harkla. It’s like there is a whole deep reservoir of something at the base of their throats that needs to be coughed out.
Theatre actors, opera singers and others who perform in front of a live audience know what a big distraction a Harkla can be.
Have you ever been disturbed by an ill-timed Harkla or had one at the most inopportune moment?
There’s something about puddles that no child, regardless of nationality, can resist. But it was only Iceland which came up with the word, Hoppipolla, for the act of jumping into puddles.
I used to think Hoppipolla was cute. Then I had kids and they started Hoppipolla, and dirtying their clothes, and silly billy, that I am, I was reminded of stains that wouldn’t go away and marks that were here to stay.
But one look at the faces of La Niña and El Niño, the unabashed joy reflected there, reminded me of how simple childhood joys are. We can’t all go to Disneyland, but a friendly, neighbourhood puddle is just as inviting and hard to miss.
And just to ensure that we grownups don’t feel neglected, the government has very kindly left crater-sized puddles on almost all our roads, so we don’t miss out on some clean Hoppipolla fun.
Actually, not so clean.