The relationship between words and their meaning is a fascinating one, and linguists have spent countless years deconstructing it, trying to figure out why there are so many feelings and ideas that we cannot even put words to, and that our languages cannot identify. This post is from Ella Frances Sanders, writer and illustrator.
Somehow narrowing it down to just a handful, we’ve illustrated some of these wonderful, elusive, words, which have no single word within the English language that could be considered a direct translation. We hope that you enjoy recognizing a feeling or two of your own among them.
1. German: Waldeinsamkeit
A feeling of solitude, being alone in the woods and a connection to nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson even wrote a whole poem about it.
2. Italian: Culaccino
The mark left on a table by a cold glass. Who knew condensation could sound so poetic.
3. Inuit: Iktsuarpok
The feeling of anticipation that leads you to go outside and check if anyone is coming, and probably also indicates an element of impatience.
This is the word the Japanese have for when sunlight filters through the trees – the interplay between the light and the leaves.
5. Russian: Pochemuchka
Someone who asks a lot of questions. In fact, probably too many questions. We all know a few of these.
6. Spanish: Sobremesa
Spaniards tend to be a sociable bunch, and this word describes the period of time after a meal when you have food-induced conversations with the people you have shared the meal with.
The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country – of being a foreigner, or an immigrant, of being somewhat displaced from your origin.
10. Urdu: Goya
The suspension of disbelief that can comes when reading a good tale.
The idea that words cannot always express everything has been written about extensively. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Words are but symbols for the relations of things to one another and to us; nowhere do they touch upon the absolute truth.”
‘Through The Language Glass’ by Guy Deutscher, goes a long way to explaining and understanding these loopholes; the gaps which mean there are leftover words without translations, and concepts that cannot be properly explained across cultures. But wait! Ella Frances Sanders, author of Lost in Translation (a New York Times bestseller) has now published a charming illustrated collection of more than fifty expressions from around the globe that explore the nuances of language: The Illustrated Book of Sayings For more see: http://ellafrancessanders.com/the-illustrated-book-of-sayings
I love words don’t you? One of my favorites is “callipygous” as in a callipygous young lady; Aphrodite was callipygian i.e. “had beautiful buttocks.” 😉 Do you have any to share?