Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Words that don't exist in the English language

I grew up bilingual speaking English to my father and Korean to my mother.  This made me aware at an early age the subtle differences of linguistic expression.
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For instance, in Korean there is a specific word gulpi which means the day after the day after tomorrow so basically three days from now.  It was one of the few words that would trump the English equivalent in conversation with my father.

Now don't get me wrong, I love the English language and I always defend it to foreigners learning it that it doesn't have the correct translation for a specific notion.  ( For instance, the term schadenfreude is still commonly referred to in the original German as is l'esprit de l'escalier in French.)
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 I remind them that language is a social, fluid, and animate object.  The English language has a dictionary that grows bigger by the year unlike French that resolutely attempts to remain as static as possible. While it is easy to communicate at a base level in English, 
you can always tell a foreigner.  
It's just that we are more forgiving about accents unlike
 certain European countries as 
the English language intrinsically has so many variations.

But there are certain words that I do wish English had that 
already exist in other languages.
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Some of us may be aware of the Danish word hygge 
( loose translation is cosy comfort ) which due to the popularity of Danish drama is fast becoming almost an English word.
Although I am convinced the word hug is derived from this one.

These are words if existed in English might be used by most of us.

Remember the movie Lost in Translation?
Well there is a tribal Tierra del Fuego word that translates exactly what happened in that movie...
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It was mamihlapinatapei which is the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start.
All that in one word - love it.


 Have you ever bought a book but never read it? 
The Japanese have a word for it.
Yep, tsundoku for War and Peace.

I know a few single male friends who would use this Japanese word a lot in a nightclub.
Girls who look good from behind but not in front are bakkushan.


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The Japanese have specific aesthetic notions.
Your hairdresser needs to know that it is their fault if you are 
age-otori which is looking worse after a hair cut.
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Remember those butterflies and euphoria during the early stages of a love affair?  That's called forelsket in the Nordic languages.


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The sensual people of Brazil have a special verb, cafune
which is running fingers tenderly through your lover's hair.
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Gigil is Tagalog for that feeling when you want to squeeze or pinch something or someone who is soooo adorable.
It's natural that the German language would come up with this as I love this feeling - waldeinsamkeit - being alone in the woods.
 Who would now dare say German isn't a beautiful language.


Tabitha from Bourbon and Pearls surely must have posted something on this that I missed while going through her archives.
We've all tartled haven't we? 
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I am surprised this isn't a mainstream word.
This is the act of hesitating introducing someone because 
you've forgotten their name.


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Gaelic is so nuanced they even have a name for that special itch on the upper lip before you sip whisky, sgriob.

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There is a coined phrase that a lot of people use of late when they say, "I'm eating my feelings." Germans refer to this as
 Kummerspeck or literally grief bacon.

I have been guilty of the following.
Have you ever kept eating even though you are full 
but the food is just too delicious? 
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Well, the Georgians call it shemomedjamo which translates as 
I accidentally ate the whole thing.

Italians are so design minded that they even have a word for
 that mark left on a table by a cold glass.
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Coaster anyone?
I don't want any culaccinos.
But I think we need to find a new word for the following.

There needs to be a new English word 
for l'heure bleue because those damn vampires 
have hijacked the word twilight!

70 comments:

  1. Love this! I tartle all the time! I am now incorporating waldeinsamkeit into my vocabulary immediately - I do it almost daily and now I have a word for it!

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    1. So do I! But I also have itches for French fries more than whiskey. We must come up with a word for this! :)

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  2. Fascinating! I agree re twilight - a beautiful word ruined forever. I used to share a house with a lovely Danish couple and he always used to call her 'pus' as a term of endearment and it always made me laugh that she was happy to be called our equivalent of a suppurating wound. Maybe he meant puss?...I'm not going there.

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    1. Oh don't! Every time I see are you being served and they say that catchphrase I do think English can be so funny! But twilight is now just a ugh word isn't it??

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  3. Very funny N! There are a lot of good words that we don't have a match for... and vice versa. But even within English there are plenty of words that have evolved in different English speaking countries and which don't have an equivalent in another English speaking country... like Chav for example, just off the top of my head xx

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    1. Too true! And I tell people that we are a fast changing language and every decade the definition of the word "cool" differs! But chav is definitely a hard one to translate as I once attempted to explain it's meaning to my mother. She still doesn't get it. She says but Asians love Burberry too?

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    2. Chav is very hard to define... but it's a great word. White trash doesn't quite have the same meaning as chav.

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    3. There are two schools of though on the origin of chav. Some say it is a gypsy word and others say it is an acronym for council house and violence.

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    4. Your mum is funny! But I've tried to explain the meaning of the word, and it doesn't translate in Australian well - a CUB - Cashed up Bogan is the closest maybe?

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    5. Cub? That is a new one for me. I love it!

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  4. Very interesting. Love this! The word's actually 'gigil' instead of gheegle, if you don't mind me correcting the spelling. I wonder where that spelling came from? And when we pronounce gigil, it's accompanied by gritted teeth to emphasize the feeling :) I don't have tsundoku coz I try not to waste money unless it's a special edition :) In Tagalog, we have a word for bakkushan which is talikodgenic. It's a mix of Tagalog with English. Talikod means turn your back, ang genic of course from photogenic. It's applicable to both men and women who only look good from behind. Very colloquial. Wow, gulpi in Tagalog has a negative meaning. It means beat up someone. Our word for the day after tomorrow is makalawa. I think it's great to grow up bilingual, don't you think? I love the shifts in how thoughts are expressed xxx

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    1. Sorry about the spelling! I shall correct soon - my Tagalog isn't what is used to be hehe. I like the combo word of talikodgenic. Yes I do love the differences in language and how it can mould a psyche subliminally. xx

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    2. I meant, where did your source get the spelling from? It's so Anglicised. Hehehe. I'm sure it's not you coz I bet your Tagalog was very good at some point :D

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    3. I have highlighted the words that have links and that one came from urban dictionary. That's how they spelt it and I dare not correct a dictionary but you trump them so I changed it! ;)

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  5. I've always been fascinated by languages and the way one word in a particular language can convey a feeling or emotion so well. It's always interesting to see which new vocabulary makes it into the Oxford dictionary and it's true that the Académie française are always keen to resist English words such as software and email preferring the French equivalents. Language and culture are so entwined as you have shown here with so many of these specific words . Great post!

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    1. Yes it seems every year there is a kerfuffle in France because they allowed a certain word into the books. I can understand from their point of view somewhat but I doubt the average French person speaks like Voltaire used to... But yes language and culture are truly intertwined. Thanks Miss B!

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  6. I've never even heard of tartled or the other Gaelic word!
    This is an amazing post, so so clever of you. I have always loved the German words you listed, and the others here are just fascinating.

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    1. Oh didn't you? It's just that I missed your timorous beasties post somehow and I now love them!! But I think we all tartle more than we like. I might use this word with Mr CSW and it will be code word for introduce yourself and ask for their name bc i have no idea!

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  7. Had to come back to this, do you think re German word above, that's where Walden came from?

    I really love this post.

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    1. Funny enough ones first reaction is tht from thoreaus walden pond though that name was obviously derived from this word as he was alone in the woods...but I just googled it and in German it means strong fighter apparently which if you watch game of thrones, one should never be alone in the woods unless you can defend yourself but in English it also means from the welshmans valley. Technically that would also mean being alone in the woods no?

      Thanks Tabs!

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  8. Love this post - thank you for introducing us to all these new words! Schadenfreude was a word that I heard a lot when I was in grad school!!! My inlaws are Swedish, and they often use the word 'lagom', which means 'just the right amount' with the connotation that the amount is appropriate or moderate to the situation.

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    1. Yes I love that word too. It's almost like a Nordic concept. It's funny about lagom though isn't it? The flipside is that too good is also looked down upon. I wonder if this is why the Scandinavians have such huge taxation to make everyone "lagom"?

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  9. As Saussure put it: pour connaitre la langue il faut connaitre les langues! You are an example of a cultivated person who writes a beautiful English because of your knowledge of other languages, as shown in this post.
    Learned a lot of things today. I definitely feel better after reading this!
    laura

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    1. So true about les langues. I love how tongue is also the word for language. In Korean, we have so many different words for languages - one is for spoken, one is as a concept, and one is for communication. Thanks so much Laura but you already knew about culaccinos right? :)

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    2. No I didn't know it, probably it is a dialectial word. I submitted it to numerous friends and colleagues and nobody knew it. I have to look up the Zingarelli, the bible of Italian language. have a great day
      laura

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    3. Interesting. I wonder if it is a specialist technical word that carpenters and joiners use then?? Have a lovely day too x

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  10. This is hilarious, wherever did you find all these words ha ha. When it comes to languages I always feel so ignorant. The furthest I got with a second language was GCSE French and it was my worst grade. I wish I had tried harder, it must be such a beautiful skill to be able to hold a conversation in a language other than English.

    Its so sweet when one or two of my readers apologise for their poor English when they leave comments, I'm like girl...... I wouldn't be able to write a comment in your language!

    Did you know blog nor blogger is in the dictionary (not my edition anyway), what am I talking about, of course you knew!!!

    xx

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    1. I speak to my mother in Korean and have friends who speak other languages and they will always ask how to say something in English. I also went to an international school until university so was always aware of words that did or didn't exist in certain languages. I am very interested in sociolinguistics...But I just double checked and it is in the Oxford but as it is rather recent you must just have a old edition - look up fashionista and see if you are in it. If not then it's time to buy a new dictionary :) xx

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    2. aaaw I'd love to hear you speak Korean Naomi; you'll have to do to a You Tube post soon!!!

      Right then, I know what I will be buying at the weekend, and it wont be anything I can wear - a new dictionary!! ha xx

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  11. I luff this post.
    Perhaps we need to put you in charge of making up some new but useful
    Words.
    Perhaps it should be kummerkuchen...

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    1. kummerkuchennotevenabakkushanbecauseIshemomedjamosowaldeinsamkeitbutatleastthebearsthinkiamgigil? You will unscramble in no time :) jawohl

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  12. Hooow do you know so many things? Seriously, I'm always learning something every time I visit! My mom's first language is Tagalog. Wonder if she uses the word "gigil" a lot, seeing that she always wants to squeeze and pinch cute things. Or wait, I think that's actually MY problem!

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    1. Can you speak Tagalog too??

      Oh and jack trade master none ring a bell? :)

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  13. Brilliantly insightful! How many other languages do you speak (apart from English and Korean) to understand these delightful differences?

    And tartling...oh that is priceless...happens to me all the time...just have to remember the word "tattling" to explain it...

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    1. I studied languages since very young as I went to international school so I did french since 5 spanish and japanese since 10 and i moved about a lot so various dabblings in others but as I always say - i talk nonsense in every single one plus I haven't kept up with many so it take awhile before I can get going. But I love tartle. That and CUB are my new fave words!

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  14. What is the word for "how do you know so much?" x

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    1. It's called wiseassspendingtoomuchtimeonwebinsteadofdoingsomethinguseful. x

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  15. Okay this was so interesting. I love languages and learning more about words and origins. Funny how some words come into use for things and others never do. Fascinating.
    xKim

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    1. Thanks Kim - you can use tartle next time you need your husband to rescue at a party! xx

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  16. Oh I tartle all the time so I just say please introduce yourselves I'm so bad at introductions, pathetic, I know. Love this, always been fascinated by languages too. Did you know the Chinese have two different words for brother so you know whether the brother is older or younger and that goes for sister too? Saves the question, older or younger.

    Is there a Korean word for the day after tomorrow? And what do you think about the dictionary adding "not literally" as one of the meanings for the word "literally?"

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    1. Yes in most Asian languages but I think predominantly in east Asia, we have several words for sister and brother. Like you said one older and one younger but also older sister as said by a girl is different as older sister said by a girl! So there are even more variations to be technical. Literally is a funny one. I think it is going to be changed soon in the dictionary bc even tho it is used wrong, like most languages, when you hear it enough it becomes the norm. English is full of grammatical exceptions which drive people mad!! But I also wonder about normalcy. I prefer normality. Or am I being pedantic?

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    2. Oh forgot, yes Korean does have a word for that too. The also have a word for the day before yesterday.

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    3. I meant to say older brother and sister is different depending on the sex of the person saying it.

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  17. thank you for this delightful post - from one word child to another.

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  18. Just brilliant! I love that there is a word for "Lost in Translation"; I cannot remember it, though.

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    1. I will stick to lost in translation as well!! :)

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  19. Excellent post. :-)

    Also, one loves the film Lost in Translation.

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  20. Your post is too gigil :) How about an old word for twilight; 'crepuscule" ? Twilight is definitely past its use by date.

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    1. I think that is a fantastic word. It sounds a little haunted but that is what the night did to people. So crepuscule

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  21. What a great topic Naomi! I totally agree with you about the importance in a language and also mastering the nuances. I will never forget when I lived in Münich and studied German at university, and the great pleasure i felt when I, the Swede, cracked a joke in perfect timing in German and my German friends laughed their pants of:) Have a wonderful weekend! xo Caroline

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    1. Well done - so you are funny in several languages! That is a feat because most aren't funny even in one ;) xx

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  22. Of course we need a word for 'tartled' -brain freeze (or brain fart) are really not that exciting!
    I always learn something new from you. Great post!!
    xx, Heather

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  23. Love this post! It would be my dream to be a polyglot when I grow up :-)

    PS. many thanks for pointing out that my posts have not been updating for 3 years( WTF?! speaking of languages) on yours and other blogs. Would you mind deleting and re-entering it to see if that solves the issue? with appreciation, merci & domo arigato (that's it for me!)
    xx SP

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    1. Thank you Slim!! No worries - will do pronto. xx

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  24. This article is very interesting! It's sure every language lacks some words and that's why it's so nice to know lots of different languages!!!

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    1. Merci Gloria! Yes it is true not one language is fully comprehensive for sure and it is still catching up to our changes and wants :) x

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  25. Good post! We should definitely respect all cultures and languages, they each showcasing their own insight and wisdom into human existence!

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    1. Thank you. Yes I think each geographical area definitely brings their experience into play and enters into language.

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  26. This is a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing all this .. I had no idea:) and how great that you are bilingual! It's a shame that so many of us here in America miss out on all this because we only speak one language. Enjoy your Sunday!

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    1. Thank you Leslie, yes it is useful if the speakers are nearby :). But in America they seem to be getting dialects which I love and the regional accents are delightful! Have a lovely week.

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  27. How did you come up with all of these?? This post is brilliant!! I have another one for you, it's Slovenian - strahospoštovanje.:) It's a noun describing a feeling when you're afraid of somebody and you respect them at the same time, like God for example. Or my father.:) I don't think there's an English word for it, at least I'm not familiar with it and I've been looking for it for years.

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    1. It came about as I was getting frustrated with explaining the "gulpi" concept and the day before yesterday in English and then listed some words and then researched comparitive words. But I love that word in Slovenian - I am surprised Koreans dont have it bc most parental relationships are like that!! Thanks for that - love learning new stuff :)

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    2. Apparently in Slovenia strahospoštovanje's the rule of thumb.:) But it's really cool you speak Korean out of all of the languages out there, you should go work for the government or for some intelligence agency...:)

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  28. Brilliant post. Well done! xoxo

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