Future Words

There are several very fascinating words in other languages which have really exceptional meanings and are difficult to concisely translate into English. Their definitions sound very much to me like poems. Maybe my poems are future words. Today I went all over the internet looking for these words:

Let’s start first with this quote from author Milan Kundera about the Czech word litost:

As for the meaning of this word, I have looked in vain in other languages for an equivalent, though I find it difficult to imagine how anyone can understand the human soul without it. Litost is a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.

So check out more words like these after the jump.

These first words and definitions were all found at this lovely little place, which I do hope is credible: http://betterthanenglish.com/

Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan)

It refers to “a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other would initiate something that they both desire but which neither wants to begin.”

Belum (Indonesian)

Belum translates to Not Yet, but with positive, optimistic connotations. It is used for tasks/events not yet undertaken or experienced, yet that are hoped to be. Due to the Indonesian people’s undying optimism, it’s used in response to questions where the answer in English would be “No, I haven’t”, or “No, I will never” just so the chance of that event happening isn’t ruled out. e.g. “Have you eaten dinner?” right through to “Have you climbed Mount Everest?”

Pälvi (Finnish)

A snowless patch of ground in otherwise snow-covered terrain.

Karelu (Tulu Indian)

The mark left on the skin by wearing anything tight.

Istiqâra (Arabic)

A request to receive spiritual or practical assistance in the form of a dream.

Ahimsa (Sanskrit)

Literally: the avoidance of violence. A belief in the avoidance of violence or the killing of living creatures.

And here are some special winks winks winks entries:

Amagami (Japanese)

To pretend-bite someone.

Gigil (Tagalog)

The irresistible urge to pinch someone because the object/person is well liked/loved.

Then there is this entry which has a really fascinating and beautiful little gem inside it:

Panahiyabhadra (Hindi)

A person who has lost all the hair on his head after being beaten by shoes. (Panahi= shoes, bhadra=gentleman–bald people are considered to be gentleman.)

In Hindi, bald people are considered to be gentleman, beautiful. I wonder what they say of the grey haired.

And here are a few others I’ve stumbled upon:

A House Occurs: In the comment section of a Flickr photo, which you can find here, I found this fascinating:

“a house occurs”-Nootka for “house”, as in there is no noun form of the word because for the Nootka, houses are transitory, impermanent.

Qarrtsiluni (Iñupiaq)

a word that means “sitting together in the darkness, waiting for something to burst.”

In Japanese they have a word for what you pretend to believe and a word for what you actually believe. The full wikipedia entry on this is short and fascinating, and more fascinating discussion of this distinction can be found here and I encourage you to read it all, but here are the definitions Wikipedia gives:

Honne (本音?)

refers to a person’s true feelings and desires. These may be contrary to what is expected by society or what is required according to one’s position and circumstances, and they are often kept hidden, except with one’s closest friends.

Tatemae (建前?),

literally “façade,” is the behavior and opinions one displays in public. Tatemae is what is expected by society and required according to one’s position and circumstances, and these may or may not match one’s honne.

There is also this quote from here about the words:

The Japanese have just accepted this huge difference between what we mean and what we say, calling them “honne” and “tatemae.” The first is reality as you understand it, the second is reality as filtered through what society expects.

The difference is the Japanese don’t seem to regard this as something to get pissed off about (they don’t recognize one as being more true or honest than the other, but as simply two sides of reality).

Here are a few other places that have posts about similar words:
one
two
three

Finally, people have written books about this:
They Have a Word for It by Howard Rheingold
In Other Words by C.J. Moore

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Future Words

  1. allie moreno

    ahhh this is cool!

  2. Of all of these, my favorite is the Yaghan word, “mamihlapinatapai.” I can just picture two people sitting next to each other on a park bench somewhere staring in silence at their hands on their knees, waiting.

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