SAY WORD, there’s a word for that? Filling in the language gaps

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(Note: this article is part of Volume 18, Issue 2 publication, to view other articles click here. To view the ISSUU version of the magazine click here)

by Marzia Niamah They say everyone smiles in the same language. But have you ever considered that we all also feel in the same language? Sometimes we are limited to what we perceive as language. We assume that what we feel can somehow be put into words, or at least, into words we know. Sometimes, we simply cannot say it – even though we feel it. That is what makes these words, compiled below, so special.

1. Espirit d’escalier (French): Usually translated as “staircase wit,” is the act of thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late to deliver it.

You know when that person you never met before likes to make snarky comments at you at a family dinner party? And most times you are too taken aback and surprised that you are rendered speechless as to why they would put you on the spot like that? But then you think of the perfect, witty comeback 5 seconds too late and anything you say now will be just plain awkward.

2. Tartle (Scottish): The act of hesitating while introducing someone because you have forgotten their name.
This happens often on a big campus. If you met someone once or twice, indirectly, then it may be excusable. However, if that person was in your class for an entire year and sat beside you discussing the weather or the content on the upcoming midterm, hinting at the possibility of forming a study group, it may be slightly embarrassing to forget this person’s name.

3. Litost (Czech): A state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.
Such a state is exhibited after every difficult midterm and you feel as though your entire future flashes before your eyes, leaving little to no room for optimism.

4. Pochemuchka (Russian): A person who asks a lot of questions. Yeah, that guy. In every class.

5. Taarradhin (Arabic): Implies a happy solution for everyone.

This can also be described as an “I win – you win” situation. It’s a way of reconciling without anyone losing face. Arabic does not have a word for “compromise,” in the sense of reaching an arrangement in which the two parties are unsatisfied or “agree to disagree.”

6. Meraki (Greek): Doing something with soul, creativity, or love.

It’s when you put something of yourself into what you’re doing.

7. Guanxi (Mandarin): In traditional Chinese society, you would build up good guanxi by giving gifts to people, taking them to dinner, or doing them a favor, but you can also use up your guanxi by asking for a favor to be repaid.

8. Gigil (Filipino): The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute.

Most of us make high-pitched baby noises which are probably not benefitting the child in any way, but this is exactly what we are all thinking when we make them.

9. Iktsuarpok (Inuit): You know that feeling of anticipation when you are waiting for someone to show up at your house and you keep going outside to see if they’re there yet? This is the word for that.

10. Kyoikumama (Japanese): A mother who relentlessly pushes her children toward academic achievement.

We find them in all cultures. Behind every academic achievement is a relentless mother.

These words should be appreciated for their own sound, origin and uniqueness when we pronounce them – trying to feel the texture and taste the ingredients of the letters that combine to fill the gaps of the English language. We may try to describe the words – in a few other words – attempting to find the perfect synonym or phrase, but the beauty of these words lies in their ability to transcend across peoples and across times – to unite in the constant that is human emotion.