Words that Don’t Exist in English (But Should)

Photo Source: Keep Calm-O-Matic

Photo Source: Keep Calm-O-Matic

There exists a certain lore in my family that I would sing Japanese opera from my crib in the middle of the night as a baby.   (I am not Japanese, but I do have what you might consider an “operatic” bustline.)  Then in high school, I took every foreign language that was offered, and people would joke that I did it because I needed to be able to talk to everyone at all times.

I love words.  What do you expect from someone who grew up with the AP Style Guide on grammar for bathroom reading and a dad who liked to play with palindromes on long car rides (A Man A Plan A Canal Panama was his favorite).

So, I find lists like these particularly entertaining – here are my Top 11 genius words that don’t exist in English but SHOULD compiled from here and here and here (check out the links for more head-scratching, knee-slapping etymology):

  1. How is there not an English word for this? Ungdayee (Hindi): That stretch you do when you first wake up in the morning.
  2. This one is a personal fear of mine – Age-otori (Japanese): To look worse after a haircut
  3. Something I’m very, very good at – L’esprit de l’escalier (French): usually translated as “staircase wit,” this is the act of thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late to deliver it
  4. I feel this keenly whenever I see someone fall – Pena ajena (Mexican Spanish): The embarrassment you feel watching someone else’s humiliation
  5. I was an adolescent kleptomaniac – this could have been ME – Tingo (Pascuense language of Easter Island): to borrow objects one by one from a neighbor’s house until there is nothing left
  6. The Thai word for Jewish guilt – Greng-jai (Thai): That feeling you get when you don’t want someone to do something for you because it would be a pain for them.
  7. This is my lifelong affliction - Shemomedjamo (Georgian): You know when you’re really full, but your meal is just so delicious, you can’t stop eating it? The Georgians feel your pain. This word means, “I accidentally ate the whole thing.”
  8. Roll out this one at your next Superbowl Party - 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.”
  9. I thought this was a uniquely Brooklyn phenomenon - Kaelling (Danish): You know that woman who stands on her doorstep (or in line at the supermarket, or at the park, or in a restaurant) cursing at her children? The Danes know her, too.
  10. Do you think this applies to delicious snacks or just another person?  Koi No Yokan (Japanese): The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall in love.
  11. What often happens between college students after #10 - Rhwe (Tsonga, South Africa): To sleep on the floor without a mat, while drunk and naked.

What are some words YOU think should exist in English that don’t?


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