The Untranslatables III


With so many different languages being spoken around the world, it’s hard to run out of special words that describe feelings and situations we are often familiar with.

But often don’t seem to have a way of expressing them in our native tongue. 

Since language is the bread and butter of our craft, finding these words is like finding a treasure that happened to be in plain sight all along but somehow we always missed it. It has been quite a while since we last enjoyed a few of these delightful words, so let’s get down to business!

Tsundoku: Marie Kondo’s worst nightmare made real, tsundoku is the Japanese word to describe the practice of collecting and piling books on shelves and never getting around to read them. While too much tsundoku can become a tad expensive, we have to admit we love the vibe of a room filled to the ceiling with books.

Culaccino: An Italian word for the wet circles that cups or glasses leave on the table, this one surely has different associations for different people. For folks working in restaurants, they are the pesky marks that have to be scrubbed off quickly so they don’t stick. For the rest of the world, they are the sign of an ice cold beer during a summer afternoon. 

Flâner: This French expression describes the act of strolling around the streets without any particular destination. It seems rather fitting that the word is French, as walking aimlessly around the streets of Paris and basking in its monumental architecture seems like a wonderful way to make time fly.

Handschuhschneeballwerfer: This German tongue-twister of a word literally translates as “glove snowball thrower”. When somebody is called a handschuhschneeballwerfer, it means that person is so cowardly that he or she requires gloves to throw snowballs. Alternatively, it can mean that somebody is prone to criticize the work of others without ever being brave or talented enough to ever possibly do it themselves.

Shemomedjamo: For connoisseurs of Georgian food and its many delicious virtues, this one won’t come much as a surprise. The closest we can get to translating it ends up looking like “I accidentally ate the whole thing”, something that must be fairly common within the walls of any good Georgian restaurant. Bon appétit!

Gökotta: In a place that can sometimes be as cold as Sweden, gökotta must be a wonderful experience, especially during the winter months. The word describes the action of waking up at dawn in order to go out and listen to the birds sing. It’s safe to say it must be a perfect way to start the day, and while we’re not sure if the practice is particularly widespread in Sweden, the rest of the world should think about doing it a bit more often!

Desenrascanço: We all love to procrastinate every now and then. It’s one of those pleasures of life that’s always dangerously close to becoming a problem, but the definition of desenrascanço describes somebody that seems unaffected by leaving everything for the last minute, and always seems to effortlessly whip the perfect solution out of thin air. That’s definitely a superpower many of us would love to have.

Mamihlapinatapei: Deep in southern Argentina we find Tierra del Fuego, a beautiful archipelago that lies at the southernmost tip of the American continent. Its dramatic and primordial beauty probably inspired the native Yaghan people to conjure a word like mamihlapinatapei, which describes the meaningful look that two people share when they both want to initiate something, but for varying reasons they choose not to do so. Pretty much the plot of 90% of romantic movies ever made right there.

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