13 Lovely, Untranslatable Words

I’m loving our Semantics class with Prof. Marquez! 💜💛💙 Initially, I thought that the subject would be dreary (even though I already like semantics) because a) it’s on Saturdays, 2-5 in the afternoon and b) the room’s low temperature makes me even sleepier. But, boy, I was so wrong. Prof. Marquez is a helluva awesome English professor. She makes semantics sound so easy, and I’m so close to believing it. Anyway, we are doing translation practices just earlier, and in connection to that, she gave out a myriad of interesting words that support the weaker version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. According to the weaker version, language does influence to some extent the way we think, and view the world, however, does not fully determine or constraint it.

“Meaning is not fully transferrable from one language to another, because every thought is dependent on any particular language.”

Here are some of the words that she shared with the class:

1. saudade (Portugese) – a strong feeling of missing someone you love

2. mamihlapinatapal (Yaghan) – a look shared by two people who are both waiting for each other to start something

3. tuqburni (Arabic) – a love so deep, you can’t imagine life without your partner

4. retrouvailles (French) – the happiness of reuniting with someone after a long separation

5. zhaghzhagh – the chattering of teeth in the cold

6. ousra (Indian) – to love for the last time

7. koi no yokan (Japanese) – the feeling upon meeting someone that love is in the cards, in time

8. age-otori (Japanese) – to look worse after a haircut

9. tsundoko (Japanese) – to buy a book but not read it

10. verschlimmbessern (German) – make something worse while trying to improve it

11. pochemuchka – a person asking too many questions

12. tartle (Scottish) – to hesitate introducing someone because you forgot his name

13. cafuné (Portugese) – to run fingers through someone’s hair

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