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World's Untranslatable Emotions

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Patricia Zadeh

on 13 February 2014

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Transcript of World's Untranslatable Emotions

World's Untranslatable Emotions
Schadenfreude (German): the pleasure derived from someone else’s pain.
Schadenfreude is everyone’s favorite guilty pleasure. Why? Because schadenfreude describes the inexplicable joy you experience when you watch a video compilation of dramatic Wipeouts. You know you shouldn’t laugh.
“Gezelligheid”, which means the feeling of “comfort and coziness of being at home, with friends, with loved ones or general togetherness”.
Tocka (Russian): great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause; ache of soul, a longing with nothing to long for.
Tocka is the center-point of every 2-dollar paperback novel you find in the “beach book” section of a convenience store.
Pena ajena (Mexican Spanish): The embarrassment you feel watching someone else's humiliation.
Litost : a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.
Litost is the underlying cause of a mid-life crisis, the state of self-reflection that forces you to acknowledge the laugh-lines forming around your mouth, and the bags hanging below your eyes.
Saudade : a somewhat melancholic feeling of incompleteness; longing for something that might never return.The closest available word in English has been agreed on by linguists as “nostalgia.” But this is also agreed to be a very inadequate word to describe the feeling of a constant longing and almost yearning that persists in the back of your mind even when you turn your thoughts to other places.


Art, design student Pei-Ying Lin identified a number of words from other languages that describe specific emotions, ones that cannot be defined by any one term in English. She found the best way to describe them in English was to say “it is a kind of (emotion A), close to (emotion B), and somehow between (emotion C) and (emotion D).”

For example, you know that bubbly emotion that rushes over you in the moment you fall in love? It’s the one where you get butterflies in your stomach and forget your own name. What do we call that very specific emotion in English? There isn’t an English word for it, but there is a word for that emotion in Japanese.
You can feel it. You can sense it. Somewhere deep inside, you know exactly what emotion you’re experiencing, but for some reason, you can’t seem to find a way to describe it.
Forelsket: The euphoria you experience when you are first falling in love.
Waldeinsamkeit: The feeling of being alone in the woods.
Iktsuarpok :
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.
Greng-jai :
That feeling you get when you don't want someone to do something for you because it would be a pain for them.
Fremdschämen; Myötähäpeä:
The kindler, gentler cousins of Schadenfreude, both these words mean something akin to "vicarious embarrassment.”
Koi No Yokan:
The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall in love.
Denmark’s mantra, hygge is the pleasant, genial, and intimate feeling associated with sitting around a fire in the winter with close friends.
Translated literally, this word means “gate-closing panic,” but its contextual meaning refers to “the fear of diminishing opportunities as one ages.”
The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country.
Pronounced as “oo-ki-yo”, this means the “floating world”; a place of fleeting beauty and living in the moment, detached from the bothers of life.
Viraag :
The emotional pain caused by separation from a loved one.
Yoko meshi:
literally ‘a meal eaten sideways,’ referring to the peculiar stress induced by speaking a foreign language
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