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Lost In Translation

You know that awkward shuffle that happens when two overly polite people try to walk past each other in a tight corridor?


We wish there was a word for that.


Perhaps we should make one up. Or maybe there’s already one in a different language.


If you’ve ever wanted a word for the time it takes to eat a banana, or the act of sitting around drinking alone and in your underwear, look no further.


The Moon Unit has scoured the ether for the quirkiest words that don’t have a direct English translation - for your linguistic pleasure.


Backpfeifengesicht [German] A face that badly needs to be slapped.


Tartle [Scottish] The moment of hesitation that comes when recognizing or introducing someone whose name you’ve forgotten.


Layogenic [Tagalog] Derived from photogenic, layogenic describes someone who looks good from afar, but appears less and less attractive the closer they get.


Kalsarikännit [Finnish] Drinking at home, alone and in your underwear, with no intention of going out.


Gluggavedur [Icelandic] Literally ‘window weather,' when the weather looks nice, but isn’t in reality.


Mangata [Swedish] The shimmering, road-like reflection of the moon on water.


Ukushalaza [Zulu] When you pretend not to notice someone that you know.


Mamihlapinatapai [Yaghan] very loosely translates to ‘a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other would initiate something that they both desire but which neither wants to begin’. On top of how beautifully specific the term is, there’s only one native speaker of Yaghan alive today.


Betsubara [Japanese] Translating roughly to ‘other belly’, it means to have room left for dessert despite being full.


Hiraeth [Welsh] A homesickness for a place you cannot return to, or that never was. There is no direct English translation, but one description is a feeling somewhere in between wistfulness, nostalgia and yearning.


Cafun [Portuguese] The act of running your fingers through your lover’s hair.


Boketto [Japanese] To gaze vacantly into the distance without thinking about anything specific.


Propil [Russian] To sell something and spend the money on booze; to squander on drink. Not just physical things either, you can also 'propil' your marriage or career.


Tarab [Arabic] A musically induced state of ecstasy or enchantment.


Naktibalda [Lithuanian] A person who makes lots of noise at night while others are sleeping.


Shemomechama [Georgian] ‘I accidentally ate the whole thing’, referring to food being so good that you can’t resist eating more than you should.


Dangubiti [Bosnian] To waste a day doing something pointless, or nothing at all.


Iktuarpok [Inuit] A feeling of anticipation tinged with annoyance when waiting for someone, where you keep looking outside to check if they’ve arrived.


Trepverter [Yiddish] A witty comeback you think of only when it’s too late to use. Literally “staircase words.”


Pisanzapra [Malay] The time needed to eat a banana.


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