L’esprit de l’escalier, schadenfreude, ennui, l’appel du vide—some über-specific (to borrow again from German) emotions or sensations are more elegantly and efficiently expressed in other languages. The phrase, “Ll’esprit de l’escalier,” for example, translates literally to “staircase wit,” but actually expresses the frustrating experience of thinking of the perfect retort too late. It’s a phrase that would have served Kathleen Kelly well, what with her character-defining inability to “say the exact thing I wanted to say, at the exact moment I wanted to say it.”
Despite a recent proliferation of listicles with titles like 38 Wonderful Foreign Words We Could Use in English or some iteration thereof, there’s one foreign word my friends and I are still seeking. It’s a word that would succinctly and specifically conjure the bitter regret of leaving an article of clothing on a store rack, never to be found again and always to be remembered.
We’ve all had that moment of indecision: you don’t get paid until next week, and you can’t quite decide whether or not that skirt you tried on three different times looks good on you, so you hang it back up and walk away like a responsible grown up. Or so you think.
You go to bed that night still thinking of The Skirt; you spend the better part of the next morning noticing how many things in your closet would look amazing with The Skirt; you start seeing it in cloud formations on your commute back home. And so you do like your mama told you and you go back to buy it because, gosh darn it, you really thought about it and you really love it, but now—tragedy of all retail tragedies—The Skirt is gone. Snapped up by some less wishy-washy buyer. And all you’re left with is this particular brand of regret. In the days following this event, you’ll continue to notice how that pair of heels with that new top would have looked especially good with The Skirt, in some sort of sick, sartorial mutation of phantom limb pain. This, this! is what we need a word for, friends. Polyglots, where you at?!
And so, when I found myself huddled anxiously in a silk-strewn dressing room at Anthropologie a few weeks ago, I knew I needed to buy this dress in order to avoid this nameless non-buyer’s remorse at all costs. It was, of course, on major sale, and I knew in my heart of hearts that I would give this dress a good home. So that’s exactly what I did.