Sometimes we must turn to other languages to find le mot juste. Here are a whole bunch of foreign words with no direct English equivalent.
1. Kummerspeck (German)
Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.
2. Shemomedjamo (Georgian)
You know when you’re really full, but your meal is just so delicious, you can’t stop eating it? The Georgians feel your pain. This word means, “I accidentally ate the whole thing.”
3. Tartle (Scots)
The nearly onomatopoeic word for that panicky hesitation just before you have to introduce someone whose name you can’t quite remember.
4. Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego)
This word captures that special look shared between two people, when both are wishing that the other would do something that they both want, but neither want to do.
5. Backpfeifengesicht (German)
A face badly in need of a fist.
6. Iktsuarpok (Inuit)
You know that feeling of anticipation when you’re waiting for someone to show up at your house and you keep going outside to see if they’re there yet? This is the word for it.
7. Pelinti (Buli, Ghana)
Your friend bites into a piece of piping hot pizza, then opens his mouth and sort of tilts his head around while making an “aaaarrrahh” noise. The Ghanaians have a word for that. More specifically, it means “to move hot food around in your mouth.”
8. Greng-jai (Thai)
That feeling you get when you don’t want someone to do something for you because it would be a pain for them.
9. Mencolek (Indonesian)
You know that old trick where you tap someone lightly on the opposite shoulder from behind to fool them? The Indonesians have a word for it.
10. Faamiti (Samoan)
To make a squeaking sound by sucking air past the lips in order to gain the attention of a dog or child.
11. Gigil (Filipino)
The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is irresistibly cute.
12. Yuputka (Ulwa)
A word made for walking in the woods at night, it’s the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin.
13. Zhaghzhagh (Persian)
The chattering of teeth from the cold or from rage.
14. Vybafnout (Czech)
A word tailor-made for annoying older brothers—it means to jump out and say boo.
15. Fremdschämen (German); Myötähäpeä (Finnish)
The kindler, gentler cousins of Schadenfreude, both these words mean something akin to “vicarious embarrassment.”
16. Lagom (Swedish)
Maybe Goldilocks was Swedish? This slippery little word is hard to define, but means something like, “Not too much, and not too little, but juuuuust right.”
17. Pålegg (Norweigian)
Sandwich Artists unite! The Norwegians have a non-specific descriptor for anything – ham, cheese, jam, Nutella, mustard, herring, pickles, Doritos, you name it – you might consider putting into a sandwich.
18. Layogenic (Tagalog)
Remember in Clueless when Cher describes someone as “a full-on Monet…from far away, it’s OK, but up close it’s a big old mess”? That’s exactly what this word means.
19. Bakku-shan (Japanese)
Or there’s this Japanese slang term, which describes the experience of seeing a woman who appears pretty from behind but not from the front.
20. Seigneur-terraces (French)
Coffee shop dwellers who sit at tables a long time but spend little money.
21. Ya’arburnee (Arabic)
This word is the hopeful declaration that you will die before someone you love deeply, because you cannot stand to live without them. Literally, may you bury me.
22. Pana Po’o (Hawaiian)
“Hmm, now where did I leave those keys?” he said, pana po’oing. It means to scratch your head in order to help you remember something you’ve forgotten.
23. Slampadato (Italian)
Addicted to the UV glow of tanning salons? This word describes you.
24. Zeg (Georgian)
It means “the day after tomorrow.” OK, we do have “overmorrow” in English, but when was the last time someone used that?
25. Cafune (Brazilian Portuguese)
Leave it to the Brazilians to come up with a word for “tenderly running your fingers through your lover’s hair.”
26. Koi No Yokan (Japanese)
The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall in love.
27. Kaelling (Danish)
You know that woman who stands on her doorstep (or in line at the supermarket, or at the park, or in a restaurant) cursing at her children? The Danes know her, too.
28. Boketto (Japanese)
It’s nice to know that the Japanese think enough of the act of gazing vacantly into the distance without thinking to give it a name.
29. L’esprit de l’escalier (French)
Literally, stairwell wit—a too-late retort thought of only after departure.
30. Cotisuelto (Caribbean Spanish)
A word that would aptly describe the prevailing fashion trend among American men under 40, it means one who wears the shirt tail outside of his trousers.
31. Packesel (German)
The packesel is the person who’s stuck carrying everyone else’s bags on a trip. Literally, a burro.
32. Hygge (Danish)
Denmark’s mantra, hygge is the pleasant, genial, and intimate feeling associated with sitting around a fire in the winter with close friends.
33. Cavoli Riscaldati (Italian)
The result of attempting to revive an unworkable relationship. Translates to “reheated cabbage.”
34. Bilita Mpash (Bantu)
An amazing dream. Not just a “good” dream; the opposite of a nightmare.
35. Litost (Czech)
Milan Kundera described the emotion as “a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.”
36. Luftmensch (Yiddish)
There are several Yiddish words to describe social misfits. This one is for an impractical dreamer with no business sense.
37 & 38. Schlemiel and schlimazel (Yiddish)
Someone prone to bad luck. Yiddish distinguishes between the schlemiel and schlimazel, whose fates would probably be grouped under those of the klutz in other languages. The schlemiel is the traditional maladroit, who spills his coffee; the schlimazel is the one on whom it’s spilled.
Gary Provost (via qmsd)
Screw falling in love.
My heart itself is already in tangles. A web of nonsense
and a drawerful of necklace chains that I will never
have the patience to separate. I am sounds mixed with
different mediums of light. Six thousand eight hundred
dialects of flesh that I don’t have enough time to
translate into words. This dictionary of skin is unreadable and
Latin is dead because of what we never had the balls to
tell each other.
I am swearing off of love because everything inside of me
is oil and vinegar and I no longer believe that it’s morally correct
to fall in love with the intent of both destroying and rebuilding
another human being. I am a forest fire and an ocean, and
my favorite color is the same as the color that hurts me the most.
I don’t want your sentimentality. Quit looking at me intending
to melt me. We all know it’s working. We all know what this heart
is capable of unfolding.
I am not as strong as my words pretend to be. Not
as quiet as these caesuras promise. This heart is a patchwork quilt of people
that leave different shades of blue inside of me.
The drowning. Your skies.
The outline of a blue jay on a porcelain plate.
For now, I am closing off these bones for someone who will know
how to trace me without me ever telling them what I look like naked.
I no longer want to seduce the words out of people just to see
if I can. The love that I’m looking for falls out of the realm of your lips
and my lips and our lips doing a dance that involves bodies and more skin
and your hair touching mine, gently, like two winds
Screw falling in love.
It’s too much to handle when
I’m already having difficulties breathing and keeping track of my
heartbeats and making sure that my limbs are doing what
they need to be doing.
men are so beautiful.
But this heart is so
I am every vulnerability that the thesaurus has to
offer me and in a certain light it’s impossible for me not to pull you
towards me with the intent of kissing the very life
out of you.
What I’m trying to say is that you are not allowed in.
What I’m trying to say is that all I want is to open myself up and have you
rearrange me, untangle the gold chains of my heart, love me for
every shade of blue that I have hidden in the silent spaces
I have sworn off of falling in love,
but I know that in the morning,
outside, in the pale frost of February,
all I’ll want is to hold another person’s hand, warm and
gloved, in their coat’s pocket.
Shinji Moon, “I Don’t Want To Be Loved. I Just Want To Be Untangled.” (via commovente)
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, page 102.
Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for there will always be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe; no less than the trees and the stars, you have the right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labours and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham drudgery and broken dreams it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
— Max Ehrmann 1927
n. the frustration of knowing how easily you fit into a stereotype, even if you never intended to, even if it’s unfair, even if everyone else feels the same way—each of us trick-or-treating for money and respect and attention, wearing a safe and predictable costume because we’re tired of answering the question, “What are you supposed to be?”