9 Foreign Words the English Language Desperately Needs
The English language has some grievous holes in it. We're talking about everyday phenomena that we have all noticed, yet don't have terms for. Fortunately, while we were busy fumbling with hand gestures and illustrations like cavemen, other cultures just made up the perfect words and phrases to encapsulate those little everyday moments filled with ... uh ... je ne sais quoi.
#9 Shemomedjamo (Georgian)
Means: To eat past the point of being full just because the food tastes good.
As absurd as that may sound, keep in mind that America has a holiday devoted entirely to shemomedjamo in November. The only way to know if you're done eating on Thanksgiving is when physical pain gets involved. If you don't eat on Thanksgiving until it hurts to breathe, you're either a liar or a terrorist (you're welcome, FBI). In fact, many Americans celebrate Thanksgiving shemomedjamo every day, because they're so patriotic.
#8. Kummerspeck (German)
Means: Excess weight gained from emotional overeating.
"Kummerspeck" translates to "grief bacon," a word that finally acknowledges that when we are under a crushing weight of sadness or stress, many of us skip alcohol and narcotics in favor of delicious fried meats.
College students do have their own version of this term -- they refer to the pounds gained by a new student on his own for the first time as the "Freshman 15" (or the "Freshman 50," depending on how homesick the kid is and how bad his grades are).
Sitcoms have always treated this as a predominantly female act (the scene usually features a woman frumped up in pajamas eating fistfuls ice cream after a breakup), but the comforting effects of fatty and salty food is both a physical and a psychological reaction that isn't exclusive to one gender. Everyone knows how comforting it can be to fill the metaphorical holes in our hearts with real doughnut holes.
#7. Hikikomori (Japanese)
Means: A teenager or 20-something who has withdrawn from social life, often obsessed with TV and video games.
We need this word because we badly need to draw a distinction here. After all, we're long past the "If you play video games, you're a virgin who lives in your parents' basement" stereotype. Pretty much everyone under the age of 40 owns at least one game machine. And these days, "geek" basically refers to the 80 percent of people who like video games, sci-fi or comics. "Nerd" just means somebody who's really smart. So what's the term for, say, MMORPG players who get so sucked into their game that they just withdraw from life?
#6. Gadrii Nombor Shulen Jongu (Tibetan)
Means: Giving an answer that is unrelated to the question.
"Gadrii nombor shulen jongu" translates literally to "giving a green answer to a blue question," and you won't find a gushier spring of it than in political debates. It sounds like this:
Moderator: How do you respond to allegations that you funneled federal grant money into your string of underground toddler fighting arenas?
Candidate: You know, I really can't believe we're focusing on this silly "scandal" when what Americans are really worried about is jobs.
#5. Iktsuarpok (Inuit)
Means: To go outside to check if an expected visitor has arrived, over and over again. For lonely people eager to find new ways to express their loneliness, there is a new word that perfectly sums up the feeling of waiting for someone who, as time goes on, you realize probably isn't coming. We've all been guilty of "iktsuarpok" at one point or another, whether it's waiting for a prom date or waiting for a concealed-weapons permit in the mail after that prom fiasco. Time can seem to stretch on for eternity in moments that require you to wait on someone else, glancing out the window again and again, waiting for their car to pull into the driveway. The Inuit know the feeling so well they developed a word for it.
#4. Kaelling (Danish)
Means: An ugly, miserable woman who yells obscenities at her kids. If you claim to have never seen one of these, go to the laundromat. Or Walmart. Or maybe it's the woman who lives down the street and offers a Master's class in parenting to everyone in earshot. Their calls are unmistakable, from "Get your asses in this house" to "Clean up your fucking mess" and even "I'll beat the shit out of you in front of the whole goddamn neighborhood."
#3. Neidbau (German)
Means: A building (often of little or no value to the proprietor) constructed with the sole purpose of harassing or inconveniencing his neighbor in some way.
Apparently this happens so frequently that the Germans not only made a word for it, they actually had to create laws against it. After all, even among neighbors who can't sink a half million bucks into pissing off the guy next door who rehearses in his garage with a Creed cover band, they can still celebrate a much smaller, subtler form of Neidbau with smaller projects like fences. People do it all over suburbia -- neighbors will build "spite fences" just to rob the guy next door of his view of the sunset with a Brandenburg Gate of neighborly hate. Sometimes it's the simple pleasures in life that make it all worthwhile.
#2. Pochemuchka (Russian)
Means: A person who asks too many questions.
Everything was all wrapped and couldn't have been clearer. But not for this guy. He wants times, dates, definitions, measurements. The endless stream of questions begins. And they are all staggeringly boring: What font should that be in? When will the old wooden doorstops be replaced by the regulation blue plastic doorstops? Where do I find paper for the printer, if the printer is empty and the replacement printer paper has also run out?
#1. Pilkunnussija (Finnish)
Means: A person who believes it is their destiny to stamp out all spelling and punctuation mistakes at the cost of popularity, self-esteem and mental well-being.
They're out there. They're reading this right now. Judging, smirking, analyzing. They care nothing about the actual meaning or fun of writing, but care everything about whether you used that semi-colon correctly. While we -- perhaps inappropriately -- call them Grammar Nazis, the Finns have a much more fitting name: "pilkunnussija." Or literally, "comma fuckers."
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