Conceptualize This

According to Global Language Monitor estimates that the Number of Words in the English Language as of January 1, 2013 is 1,019,729. The English Language passed the Million Word threshold on June 10, 2009 at 10:22 a.m. (GMT).  The Millionth Word was the controversial ‘Web 2.0′. Currently there is a new word created every 98 minutes or about 14.7 words per day.

It seems there must be a word in English for absolutely everything. But it isn’t so.  A great number of words in a great number of languages have no equivalent in English, thus it’s impossible to translate them other than by using several words, phrases or even sentences. Different ethnic groups perceive and conceptualize the world differently.

Ethnolinguistics  (sometimes called Cultural Linguistics) studies this fascinating  phenomena and came to many interesting conclusions. Wilhelm von Humboldt, the father of Ethnolinguistics, saw language as the expression of the spirit of a nation.  Look at some rather unique cultural perspectives. So different they are from those found in English language that they cannot be confined to a single English word and call for a description, sometimes lengthy:


  • Cafune (Brazilian Portuguese ) — Gently caress the loved one’s hair with your fingers.  
  • Mythpe (Finnish) – Embarrassment over someone else acting foolishly.
  • Wabi-Sabi (Japanese) — Ability to see beauty in imperfection.
  • Rwhe (Bantu language, South Africa) — To fall drunk and naked on the floor and fall asleep.
  • Tartle (Scottish) — The state of utter panic when you have to introduce a person but forgot his/her name
  • Fond de l’air (French) — Literally, bottom of the air, means it’s a sunny summer day outside that calls for light summer clothing, but it’s really very cold.
  • Iktsuarpok (language of Inuit Indians ) — Imagine you are at home, waiting for someone, but this someone is a no-show, but you keep looking through the window and waiting for the knock on the door, hoping your guest arrives.  
  • Yuputka (one of the Indian languages of Honduras ) – The feeling you get when, walking in the forest, you imagine that someone (or something) touches your skin, maybe a ghost. perhaps, ghosts.
  • Desenrascanco (Portuguese) – The art of slapping together a solution to a problem at the last minute, with no advanced planning, and no resources. It’s the coat hanger you use to fish your car keys out of the toilet, the emergency mustache you hastily construct out of pubic hair.
  • Bakku-shan (Japanese) — When a woman seems attractive from the back but when you look into her face you might find it less than attractive.
  • zlo2Ilunga (Congo) — A person who can forgive and forget for the first time, behave with gracious indignation the second time, but if you set him up the third time – he’ll punch you really hard.
  • Mamihlapiatapai (the language of the nomadic tribes of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego ) – The look of understanding people exchange when they realize they are of the same opinion
  • Oka (Ndunda, one of 514 living languages of Nigeria) — Difficulty urinating due to eating too many frogs when the rainy season hasn’t started yet.
  • Kummerspeck (German) — Literally translates as “bacon grief.” Generally refers to binge eating to drown the onset of depression.
  • Glaswen (Welsh) – Insincere smile – you smile but feel no joy whatsoever.
  • Koyaanisqatsi (language of Hopi Indians) — Nature at loss of balance and of harmony.
  • Sgiomlaireachd (Gaelic) – Irritation you feel toward people distracting you from eating, particularly when you are extremely hungry.
  • Nakakahinayang (Tagalog, Philippines) – Sense of regret for missed opportunity to take advantage of the circumstance for the reason of being extremely cautious, while someone else took the risk and succeeded.


  • Backpfeifengesicht (German) – face that asks to be slapped. (In Russian, “a mug that asks for a brick.”)
  • Nunchi (Korean) – The art of being tactful and polite.
  • Gigil (Magahat, one of 175 living languages of Philippines) –Irresistible urge to bite the person you love, caused by an excess of feelings.
  • 縮陽 [suoyoung](Chinese) – Pathological belief that your penis decreases in size, and will soon disappear altogether.
  • Areodjarekput (Inuit) – to borrow someone’s wife, temporarily.  “Wife Sharing” is not just for sex, but to help out with tedious tasks of preparing food etc.
  • Ládramhaíola (Irish-Gaelic) – A wasted day, although it was intended to be a productive one.
  • برن [ya’aburnee] (Arabic) – Literally translates as “I will bury you.” Nothing threatening here. It is only to say that you cannot live a day without the object of your desire, and that you want to die in his/her arms or  at least a day earlier.
  • Drachenfutter (German) – Literally, “Feeding the Dragon” means bringing a small gift (chocolates, flowers, perfume)  to a wife after a transgression such as coming home drunk or breaking her favorite dish.
  • Hanyauku (rukvangali, Namibia) – Tiptoeing on the hot sand so that not to “fry” your feet.
  • ジバク [jibaku] (Japanese) – to contradict oneself in the passion of an intense argumentzlo4
  • Utepils (Norwegian) – To enjoy your beer while sitting outdoors on a really nice day.
  • Panapo’o (Hawaiian) – Scratching your head, trying to remember something you have forgotten.
  • Baise-en-ville [bεzɑvil ‘] (French) – An overnight bag with everything you might need – toothbrush, deodorant, change of clothes, perfume, razor – if you are planning to spend a night of love and/or sex away from home.
  • طدت  [war-nam nihadan] (Farsi) – To kill someone, bury the body and plant flowers to conceal the crime.
  • 讳疾忌医 [huijijiyi] (Chinese) – Fear of going to the doctor, dreading to know what exactly is wrong, until such time as it is too late to do anything about the serious ailment. 


  • Bodach (Scottish Gaelic) – The spirit of a long-dead grumpy old man who comes down the chimney at night and frightens naughty children. He isn’t a poltergeist or Banshee – adults do not see or hear him. Something akin to a “monster under the bed.”
  • Huevón (Spanish) – Pathologically lazy man (he, who has excessively large balls, which pose difficulty moving around).  

Amazing the range of feelings, motions, action and emotions that could be expressed in one word. 

The Smile page is updated with 2 new cartoons.


3 comments on “Conceptualize This

  1. I’ll avoid anyone with a tendency to gigil so I don’t have to be war-nam nihadaned.

    I think we infuse language with extraneous meaning and the initial definitions no longer fit other uses after a time.

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