Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Daily Hump: Cozy

As warm-blooded mammals human beings seem to have a natural affinity towards snug, comfortable shelters. Perhaps this yearning for coziness is nothing more than a memory heldover from our time in the womb. The word cozy is most likely of Scandinavian origin (cf. the Norwegian kose seg, "be cozy") which is unsurprising given the cold Nordic climate.

English also has a word gemutlich (with or without umlaut) which is from zie Germans and is generally defined as "pleasant and friendly" (possibly first used as an adjective in English by Queen Victoria). In German a gemütlich person or place is one that obeys the philosphy of Gemütlichkeit, which goes beyond the English concept of coziness in its level of abstractness:
...rather than basically just describing a place as not too large, well-heated and nicely furnished (a cosy room, a cosy flat), Gemütlichkeit connotes, much more than cosiness, the notion of belonging, social acceptance, cheerfulness, the absence of anything hectic and the spending of quality time in a place as described above...A gemütlich one that takes part in this lifestyle and knows about the tensions he/she is able to cause, and thus tries to avoid these things actively.
This idea of avoiding tension in one's enviroment suggests a similarity to Chinese feng shui, although I'd argue the Taoist-inspired art would likely be focused much more on passive rather than active avoidance. This being said, we do see fairly analagous ideas to Gemütlichkeit in other parts of northern Europe including the Dutch gezelligheid, the Danish hygge and the Russian уют.

From an anthropological perspective it'd be interesting to examine whether cultures from warmer climates maintain any sort of concept of cozy.

cozy [Online Etymology Dictionary]
cozy [OED]
gemütlich [OED]
Gemütlichkeit [Wikipedia]
Gezelligheid [Wikipedia]

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:: posted by David, 8:46 AM


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