The English language is made up of one million, twenty five thousand, one hundred and nine words. That’s a pretty impressive number, one you might assume accounts for every last thing you’d ever need to reference or talk about. Think again, humans are so complicated that even one million plus words can’t account for every last thing we could ever need to say.
There are a number of untranslatable words used in other cultures and languages that are very clever and useful, and I’m actually jealous we don’t have a translatable alternative in the English language. Certain feelings and situations require an entire phrase to convey in English, but once you find out there are actual words to describe it in other languages you’re going to wonder why we don’t have one.
UK-based artist Marija Tiurina has brought untranslatable words from other languages to life in her new series titled “Untranslatable Words” for NeonMob. Her collection includes fourteen enchanting illustrations that define moments we can all relate to, but not one single English word can define alone.
Age-Otori: To look worse after a haircut.
The Japanese word “Age-Otori” describes that moment your hairdresser asks you if you brought a hat… after your hair is already cut and colored.
Palegg: Anything and everything you can put on a slice of bread.
The Norwegian word “Palegg” accounts for literally anything you can fit on a slice of bread and eat… ham, egg, some garlic or pickles, by anything we really mean anything.
Schlimazl: A chronically unlucky individual.
If you know someone who seems to be trapped in a permanent storm of bad luck you can use the Yiddish word “Schlimazl” to describe him or her.
Baku-shan: A beautiful girl, but only if she is being viewed from behind.
Words can be harsh and cruel, and the Japanese word “Baku-shan” is one of them. It describes a woman who appears to be beautiful from behind but from the front is not so beautiful.
Duende: The mysterious power certain artwork holds when it deeply moves a person.
Some artwork is so powerful it provokes change and strong waves of emotion; the Spanish refer to this as “Duende.”
L’appel Duvide: An undeniable urge to jump from high places.
The French word “L’appel Duvide” pays tribute to the wild child that pushes many to complete daring feats, such as freebase jumping or parachuting out of a plane.
Tretar: The second refill, or “threefill”
The Swedish word “Tretar” describes those days when you just can’t get enough coffee.
Tingo: The act of taking things one desires from a friend’s house by slowly but surely “borrowing” all of them.
You don’t want to let someone prone to “Tingo” in your home, otherwise you’ll soon have an empty home!
Gufra: The amount of water you can hold in your hands.
The Arabic word “Gufra” comes in all different shapes and sizes depending on the hands that hold it.
Schadenfreude: Feeling of pleasure from seeing someone else’s misfortune.
The German word “Schadenfreude” isn’t nice for the one experiencing misfortune but it’s a game people play nonetheless.
Kyoikumama: A mother who relentlessly pushes her children toward academic success.
The Japanese word “Kyoikumama” perfectly describes many moms from around the world.
Torchlusspanik: The fear that opportunities are diminishing as you age.
“German: I used to ski every Sunday at three, but now I just sit and I watch the TV. It’s not because I’m old, no I swear, that’s not me! It’s mainly because I tweaked my left knee. What? Oh yes, I used to play ball, every Friday at four, now I stare at the wall. Maybe you’re right, though I can’t even stand it, I think I’m a victim of ‘Torschlusspanik.'”