I am told craving is a strange feeling. You feel an itch, a desire, an intense longing for something, it is what gives rise to drug addiction or to obsessions, or so they say. A friend of mine cultivates his craving for cigarettes by smoking every now and then something different. He claims he quit smoking fifteen years ago, but this occasional smoking of other stuff helps him to keep desiring inhaling tobacco. Seems funny to me, but he is a grown up man, so he must surely know what he is up to. Now: how do we express this feeling in German and Spanish?
Well, German for once is totally unapt. Speakers of German can Lust haben auf etwas, that is, they long for something or feel a desire to have something. But you can Lust haben auf a Sachertorte, which would hardly qualify as craving in English. That is just feeling peckish. This is also a nice and interesting feeling (and perhaps another untranslatable word, but not the subject of this entry). Lust, by the way, albeit originally an old German term, is also known in English, although in English it is not written in capital letters. Nonetheless it is not exactly equivalent. It has sexual connotations, meaning an unbridled desire, that are not as evident in German. For that to happen, the German Lust has to be qualified with an adjective like unbändige at least. The German concept of Lust does not imply having the jitters when one experiences it. The “German” term that might come closest might be cold turkey. Thereby you see that the German language has a void that some have tried to fill, but it has not been filled completely. Pity the Germans for this semantic gap or try to help them with some clever suggestion, please. I am sure they will be thankful.
Spanish, on the other hand, has a related concept: they call it antojo. This word refers to a capricious, nervous longing and is mostly used in connection with pregnant women and their appetite. Craving is also used in English in relation to the sometimes surprising (at least surprising for the man) culinary wishes of women during pregnancy, that much I can gladly concede. There is even a whole set of superstitions concerning antojos in Spanish folklore. It has been claimed that the unborn child might even get an indelible mark on his or her skin if the mother’s desire is not properly satisfied. I doubt that assertion is true but it is a great tactic to use when you want to obtain something. Like pickles in the middle of the night (according to British popular tradition) or strawberries with whipped cream (a more common whish in Spain, according to rumour and tradition). But the problem remains: A proper craving is not about food, even if a pregnant woman expresses that wish. It is much more serious that that. Does somebody have a good proposal for our Spanish friends?