Word Buzz Wednesday: ikigai, Mahlzeit, Amazon effect


Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: your purpose in life, a lunchtime greeting, an ironic effect of Amazon.


“Finding your ikigai can also be as easy as just stopping yourself throughout the day and ask yourself: Why are you doing this?”

Lyndsey Matthews, “Is Ikigai the New Hygge?” CountryLiving, October 19, 2017

The Japanese ikigai is translated literally as “life” (iki) and “value or worth” (gai), says CountryLiving. The concept is about finding your purpose in life, your reason for being, or the “the thing that gets you out of bed each morning.” The Venn diagram of ikigai is made of four elements: what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for.


“But while a newcomer may struggle to use it at the appropriate time, they can quickly pick up why Mahlzeit is such a pervasive word in the German workplace.”

Joseph Pearson, “What the German language reveals about attitudes to work,” BBC, October 23, 2017

Mahlzeit, literally “meal time” in German, seems to be a kind of greeting that’s used around lunchtime. It’s short for Gesegnete Mahlzeit, “blessed meal.” A common Chinese greeting that’s similar is “Have you eaten yet?” which might have originated during times of hardship and is a way to show one is concerned for the well-being of the other.


“A Spanish word – ‘conllevado’ – sums up the divide here.”

Spain Catalan crisis: Reaction to Puigdemont from Madrid and Barcelona,” BBC, October 10, 2017

Conllevado means “to exist with a problem,” and in this context refers to the two sides of the Catalan independence movement, “those who seek to prevent it, and those in between seeking to be heard.”


“I know about the cataplexy, how it feels to have emotions short a neurological circuit in the brainstem and cause a muscular collapse.”

Henry Nicholls, “Why We Still Don’t Understand Sleep, And Why It Matters,” Digg, October 24, 2017

Cataplexy refers to “a sudden loss of muscle tone and strength, usually caused by an extreme emotional stimulus.” It often accompanies narcolepsy, “a disorder characterized by sudden and uncontrollable, though often brief, attacks of deep sleep.”

The word cataplexy comes from the German Kataplexie, which was coined by English-born German physiologist, William Thierry Preyer in 1878, says the Online Etymology Dictionary. Kataplexie comes from the Greek kataplēxis, “fixation (of the eyes).”

Meanwhile, narcolepsy comes from the French narcolepsie, coined in 1880 by French physician Jean-Baptiste-Édouard Gélineau. Narcolepsie comes from the Latinized form of the Greek narke, “numbness, stupor,” plus lepsis, “an attack, seizure.”

Amazon effect

“It’s a scene repeating itself in dying suburban malls around the country, a sweeping economic disruption known as the Amazon effect.”

Mark Arsenault and Janelle Nanos, “In Enfield, Conn., a bid for Amazon tinged with irony,” Boston Globe, October 21, 2017

The Amazon effect refers to the “ongoing evolution and disruption of the retail market, both online and in physical outlets, resulting from increased e-commerce.” The town of Enfield, Connecticut has felt this directly with the closings of Macy’s, Sears, and J.C. Penney in their mall, but in an ironic move, is entering said mall in the race for Amazon’s second headquarters.