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Best of ‘untranslatable’ words part 2

Best of ‘untranslatable’ words part 2
  • Kummerspeck
- excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.
  • Kyoikumama
(Japanese) – a mother who relentlessly pushes her children toward academic achievement.
(Japanese) – “a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.”
  • Wabi
(Japanese) – [wa-bi] – a flawed detail that creates an elegant whole.

  • Bakku-shan
(Japanese) – 
the experience of seeing a woman who appears pretty from behind but not from the front. There is a colloquial equivalent in US English: butterface, as in, ‘from behind she was pretty, but her face…’
  • Boketto
(Japanese) – 
the act of gazing vacantly into the distance.
  • Yuputka
(Ulwa) – 
the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin.
  • Tingo
(Pascuense) (Easter Island) – the act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them.
  • Gagung
(Cantonese) – [ga-GUNG] literally meaning “bare branches,” this word is used to talk about men who have little chance to get married or start families due to China’s one-child policy and its results: an excess of marriageable males.
  • Luftmensch
(Yiddish) – [LUFT-mensh] – one who lives on air.
The Joys of Yiddish: “The prototype of the luftmensh was one Leone da Modena,..who listed his skills and cited no fewer than twenty-six professions… Why would so accomplished a man be classified as a luftmensh? Because out of all twenty-six professions…he barely made a living.”

  • Pana Po’o
(Hawaiian) – to scratch your head in order to help you remember something you’ve forgotten.
  • Takallouf
(Urdu) – [ta-ka-LOOF] can be loosely translated as “formality,” and it often refers to the prodigious amount of preparation put into hosting a tea or dinner. However, it can also have a deeper, more culturally constructed meaning.
In Rushdie’s Shame, a husband finds out his wife has cheated on him and in response murders her lover. Although both husband and wife are aware of what has happened, neither of them talk of it because of the “law” of takallouf. The narrator explains:
Takallouf is a member of that opaque, word-wide sect of concepts which refuse to travel across linguistic frontiers: it refers to a form of tongue-tying formality, a social restraint so extreme as to make it impossible for the victim to express what he or she really means, a species of compulsory irony which insists, for the sake of good form, on being taken literally.When takallouf gets between a husband and wife, look out. (104)
  • Toska
(Russian) – “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.” Vladimir Nabokov
  • Jung
(Korean) – [yung] – “A special feeling…that is stronger than mere ‘love’ and can only often be proved by having survived a huge argument with someone”
  • Zhaghzhagh
- the chattering of teeth from the cold or from rage.
  • Slampadato
- addicted to tanning salons.
  • Mencolek
(Indonesian) – 
to tap someone lightly on the opposite shoulder from behind to fool them.
  • Jayus
(Indonesian) – a joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh.
  • Glas wen
- a smile that is insincere or mocking. Literally, a blue smile.

So there you have it…do share any favorites of yours that aren’t on the list!

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