Lost in Translation: Untranslatable Words 2

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAt the heart of clear communication is diction: choosing the right word. Many times we stumble in a conversation because we cannot find just the right word. We think or say out loud: “I wish there were a word for that.” Of course, the English language is always growing, a magpie that borrows a word from this language or that. But sometimes, foreign language words do not get absorbed into the English language for whatever reason. Bookshelf looks at wonderful, beautiful words from around the globe that express ideas that cannot be translated in a single word in English. Here is a tasty sampling of the global lexical smorgasbord.

flaneur: French – “a person of excruciating idleness who doesn’t know where to parade his burden and ennui” (from a dictionary of low language published in 1808); also, a man who saunters around examining society

drachenfutter: German – a husband’s gift to his wife when he has done something wrong

gezellig: Dutch – a sense of togetherness or a nice atmosphere

nunchi: Korean – the subtle, nuanced art of listening and gauging another person’s mood

Schnapsleiche: German – a person who has passed out from too much drinking

sobremesa: Spanish – after-dinner or after-lunch conversation

tocka: Russian – a complex feeling of melancholy, anguish, ennui, and nostalgia

utepils: Norwegian – drinking a beer outside in the sun

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Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia
There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology

For further reading: Lost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders (2014)


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