The Word: Words we could use in English

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Today we give a plug to a marvelous blog offered by group of 15 library workers at the main branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Oakland called the Eleventh Stack (

Each day they muse about new books, favorite authors, helpful resources for parents as their kids head back to school, their travels to historic sites, books made into movies or TV shows (like "Orange Is the New Black") and more.

Last month, Irene Yelovich, a senior librarian in Reference Services who specializes in government documents and patents, highlighted some of the foreign words that describe a feeling or situation that just don't have an equivalent word in English.

"Once in a while I try to describe something, find myself flailing in English and think that there must be a better word to describe what I mean!

"The German word schadenfreude comes to mind: the joy one feels as the result of someone else's misfortune."

She noted some of her favorite words (and resources for this information).

From "They Have a Word For It: A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words & Phrases":

Feierabend (German): Festive frame of mind at the end of the working day.

Razbliuto (Russian): The feeling a person has for someone he or she once loved but now does not.

From "The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words From Around the World":

Backpfeifengesicht (German): A face that cries out for a fist in it.

Pu'ukaula (Hawaiian): To set up one's wife as a stake in gambling

From "In Other Words: A Language Lover's Guide to the Most Intriguing Words Around the World":

Wabi-sabi (Japanese): The beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, incomplete, modest and humble.

Uitwaaien (Danish): To walk in the wind for fun.

A website included "25 Handy Words That Simply Don't Exist In English":

Pena ajena (Mexican Spanish): The embarrassment you feel watching someone else's humiliation.

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

Age-otori (Japanese): To look worse after a haircut.

Forelsket (Norwegian): The euphoria you experience when you are first falling in love.

Meraki (Greek): Doing something with soul, creativity or love. It's when you put something of yourself into what you're doing.

Taarradhin (Arabic): Implies a happy solution for everyone, or "I win. You win."

Beyond her recommendations, Mental Floss published its own "38 Wonderful Foreign Words We Could Use in English":

Kummerspeck (German): Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.

Iktsuarpok (Inuit): You know that feeling of anticipation when you're 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 it.

Pelinti (Buli, Ghana): Your friend bites into a piece of piping hot pizza, then opens his mouth and sort of tilts his head around while making an "aaaarrrahh" noise. The Ghanaians have a word for that. More specifically, it means "to move hot food around in your mouth."

Vybafnout (Czech): A word tailor-made for annoying older brothers--it means to jump out and say boo.

L'esprit de l'escalier (French): Literally, stairwell wit -- a too-late retort thought of only after departure.

Seigneur-terraces (French): Coffee shop dwellers who sit at tables a long time but spend little money.

Yiddish, of course, offers many fun and descriptive words that don't exist in English:

Machatunim: The parents of your children's spouse.

Luftmensch: An impractical dreamer with no business sense.

Schlemiel and schlimazel: Someone prone to bad luck. Yiddish distinguishes between the schlemiel and schlimazel, whose fates would probably be grouped under those of the klutz in other languages. The schlemiel is the traditional maladroit, who spills his coffee; the schlimazel is the one on whom it's spilled.



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