It didn’t take me long at all to stumble upon the inexistence of this word in the French language. I was freshly arrived on French soil, a young and excited college student finally able to soak up France in person. Within the first few weeks I tried to express in words the excitement I felt, about what I was experiencing and about upcoming events, to French speakers.
Je suis excitée! Nice try Isabel but you have just told your host family that you are experiencing sexual arousement. Foiled again by the faux-ami (“false friend”), those seemingly identical expressions that turn out to have significantly different meanings in each language.
J’ai hâte! Literally, “I have haste!”: it somehow feels flat and one-dimensional compared to “I’m excited!”. You get the sense of anticipation as the clock ticks down but the joy seems to be lost.
Je suis ravie! “I’m thrilled! ” gets me a little closer in spirit, but is so formal, such an older-person-with-ironed-clothes thing to say. Plus, it tends to be something you’d use for now, but not for an anticpated thrill.
Help! If I ask myself the question, “Why is ‘to be excited’ missing from the French language?” I find myself initially drawn to easy conclusions and stereotyping judgements, which don’t particularly satisfy.
The joy associated with anticipating something you really love to do or want to discover must be – has to be – a universal feeling. Right? So then, we must wonder, is expresing this feeling frowned upon in France? Is it more appropriate to discuss the facts, discuss the past, or describe the present (you wouldn’t believe how many different kinds of rain they have catalogued here)? Are the future, and wonderful things in store for us, a sort of taboo? Would it jinx you to get too worked up ahead of time? Or, finally, is the physical element, the tingling, jumping-up-and-down part of “being excited” perhaps the part that the French would prefer to separate from the pure and cerebral pleasure of having haste?