14 Apropos Words That Lack an English Equivalent

Though English is generally considered to contain the most words of any language in the world, appropriating vocabulary from all over, there are times when those many words simply fail us. Like having no single word to describe the intense “vicarious embarrassment” you feel when watching an episode of “Girls.” If only we were Finnish–there’d be a term for that.

Below is that word plus 13 others that lack an English equivalent. Now if only we could pronounce them all, then we could take them for our own like the entitled English speakers we are! Unless of course you can think up your own alternate names for these situations. If you’re that creative, please do share with us in a comment!

1. Shemomedjamo (Georgian)
You know when you’re really full, but your meal is just so delicious, you can’t stop eating it? The Georgians feel your pain. This word means, “I accidentally ate the whole thing.”

2. Pelinti (Buli, Ghana)
Your friend bites into a piece of piping hot pizza, then opens his mouth and sort of tilts his head around while making an “aaaarrrahh” noise. The Ghanaians have a word for that. More specifically, it means “to move hot food around in your mouth.”

3. Layogenic (Tagalog)
Remember in Clueless when Cher describes someone as “a full-on Monet… from far away, it’s OK, but up close it’s a big old mess”? That’s exactly what this word means.

4. Rhwe (Tsonga, South Africa)
College kids, relax. There’s actually a word for “to sleep on the floor without a mat, while drunk and naked.”

5. Zeg (Georgian)
It means “the day after tomorrow.” Seriously, why don’t we have a word for that in English?

6. Pålegg (Norweigian)
Sandwich Artists unite! The Norwegians have a non-specific descriptor for anything — ham, cheese, jam, Nutella, mustard, herring, pickles, Doritos, you name it — you might consider putting into a sandwich.

7. Lagom (Swedish)
Maybe Goldilocks was Swedish? This slippery little word is hard to define, but means something like, “Not too much, and not too little, but juuuuust right.”

8. Tartle (Scots)
The nearly onomatopoeic word for that panicky hesitation just before you have to introduce someone whose name you can’t quite remember.

9. Koi No Yokan (Japanese)
The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall in love.

10. Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego)
This word captures that special look shared between two people, when both are wishing that the other would do something that they both want, but neither want to do.

11. Fremdschämen (German); Myötähäpeä (Finnish)
The kinder, gentler cousins of Schadenfreude, both these words mean something akin to “vicarious embarrassment.” Or, in other words, that-feeling-you-get-when-you-watch-Meet the Parents.

12. Cafune (Brazilian Portuguese)
Leave it to the Brazilians to come up with a word for “tenderly running your fingers through your lover’s hair.”

13. Greng-jai (Thai)
That feeling you get when you don’t want someone to do something for you because it would be a pain for them.

14. Kaelling (Danish)
You know that woman who stands on her doorstep (or in line at the supermarket, or at the park, or in a restaurant) cursing at her children? The Danes know her, too.

Source: mental floss

That GIF is an Omnishambles: 2012 Words of the Year

Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation.” ~ Noam Chomsky

Two new words were added to the “monster accordion” of the English language today:

Omnishambles (noun, informal):  a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations.


GIF (verb) : to create a GIF file of (an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event.

Guess which one is from the Oxford English Dictionary and which one is from the Oxford American Dictionary?

(An important note:  I learned today that I mispronounce “GIF”. I say it as if there is a silent “t”… “gif”… and it’s like the peanut butter, Jiff. I plan to continue to say it my way. What are ya gonna do, call a cop?)

Omnishambles owes its origins to the British political satire The Thick of It.   Here are other words that have become part of our parlance, whose origins also come from television:

From The Simpsons

D’oh!” (in the OED)

Embiggen  Dictionary.com‘s 21st Century Lexicon

Stephen Colbert:  “Truthiness

Conan O’Brien:  “Crunk” 

Bugs Bunny:  Nimrod” and “Maroon”

As for technology, imagine going back even fifteen years, perhaps less, and telling someone that you needed to tweet something  you found on youtube and hey, by the way, did you hear flashdrives are on sale at Amazon? See you later.  I need to go to iTunes and download that new MP3.