12 UNTRANSLATABLE WORDS WE SHOULD ADOPT IN ENGLISH
One of my favourite words in English is moreish. The word moreish does not have an exact equivalent word in Spanish. We surely have the concept but this needs a long and winding clarification in Spanish that just kills the beauty of this word’s self -explanatory nature. It might look like a plain and unpretentious adjective, yet the concept contained within is deeply relatable and somewhat humorous. Whether in our language or someone else’s, finding the right word to express a feeling we lacked a word for is not short of discovering linguistic treasure.
Over the years, my brain has adopted several very English concepts which my native language did not provide for. Moreish of course being one. There are also other adjectives such as spooky or cheesy, verbs like chilling out or more complex expressions like “running around like a headless chicken”!
Language and culture inexorably influence each other. After all, words are created in order to identify and describe objects, animals and concepts that surround us. And yet, languages have borrowed and still are borrowing words from one other. Take phrases and words we use in everyday English such as Wanderlust, or Déjà vu, or Schadenfreude. The ideas were definitely there, but English speakers were missing the actual word for them.
There is almost a magical element when you come across one of those elusive words and notions in faraway cultures and unfamiliar languages. It feels like someone was reading your mind all along, yet that someone lives in a distant continent and speaks a language so very different to your own.
As far as I can see, the fact that we can identify wholeheartedly with words that come from different languages and cultures just goes to show that we, as human beings, might be more alike than we think.
The following list contains words which correspond to familiar concepts and new notions that we should definitely adopt:
- From Yiddish
TREPVERTER: A witty comeback you think of only when it’s too late to use.
- From Greek
MERAKI: Carrying out some activity, like cooking, with all your love and attention.
- From Japanese
TSUNDOKU: Buying a book and then leaving it somewhere unread.
- From Tulu
KARELU: The marks on your skin left when you wear something tight.
- From German
DRACHENFUTTER: The present a husband gives his wife when he has done something wrong
- From German
KABEL SALAT: “Cable salad”. A mess of tangled cables.
- From Gaelic
SGRIOB: The itchiness felt on the lips before taking a sip of whiskey
- From Urdu
NAZ: The feeling of knowing that you are loved unconditionally
- From Arabic
GURFA: The amount of water that can be held in one hand
- From Norwegian
FORELSKET: The feeling you experience when you start falling in love
- From Arabic
SAMAR: Partying until the small hours with your friends
- From Spanish
SOBREMESA: Spending time at the table chatting long after you have finished your meal
Resources: Lost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders