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Dr. Wendy Mogel’s List of Untranslatable Words

A few new words to add to your vocabulary!
Posted on Jun 9, 2021 | 11:00am
In each episode of her podcast “Nurture vs. Nurture,” Dr. Wendy Mogel introduces listeners to a foreign word that is untranslatable into English in order to enhance our vocabularies on parenthood, family, and communication with those we love the most.

Here's what she has to share with viewers of The Talk:

CAFUNÉ: (Brazilian Portuguese) The act of tenderly running your fingers through the hair of someone you love or stroking their hair softly to help them feel safe, calm, and relaxed.

TAARAB: (Arabic) A swoon-worthy word meaning mirth, glee, and specifically... musically induced ecstasy or enchantment!

PORONKUSEMA: (Finnish) The distance a reindeer can comfortably walk before needing to take a break to urinate.

MBUKI-MVUKI: (Ubuntu from sub-Saharan Africa) To spontaneously shed all your clothing and dance in celebration and joy.

MAMIHLAPINATAPEI: (Yagan word spoken by the indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego) A wordless, meaningful look shared by two people that expresses unspoken but mutual desire.

FORELSKET: (Norwegian) The euphoria experienced as you begin to fall in love.

YA’ABURNEE: (Arabic) Means “you bury me.” A declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how unbearable it would be to live without them.

FRILUFTSLIV (FREE-loofts-liv): (Norwegian) “Open air life” time spent being active and outdoors in nature.

IKTSUARPOK (eek-soow-uhr-pohk): Inuit word which describes impatient anticipation mixed with excited longing for a guest or loved one to arrive.

UFFDAH: (Swedish) This exclamation is a sympathetic word to use when someone else is in emotional or physical pain. One definition I loved described it as a mix between “I’m sorry you hurt yourself!” and “Ouch for you.”

UITWAAIEN (OAT-why-n): The Dutch offer a path out of overwhelm and anguish into a new emotional and spiritual landscape. The literal meaning? “Blow out.” The figurative, to take a break and walk away from the demands of life to clear one’s head.

Samantha Dixon writing for the online site Dutch review offers a poetic definition: ‘to walk with the wind’. She explains it’s one of the simplest Dutch activities—in fact, you’ve probably done it before without even realizing it.

She recommends following a three-step guide to uitwaaien for best results: 
1. Walk outside. 
2. Feel the wind blowing against your hair, clothes and body. 
3. There is no step three.

Simply feel the stress melt away off your body, the wind whisk away any troublesome thoughts, and be the best Dutch version of yourself you can be.

HIRAETH (HEE rith): This Welsh concept describes a poignant, wistful longing or nostalgia for a place or time you cannot return to, the lost places of your past. 

STURMFREI (schturm Fry): This German word, literally "storm-free," was originally a military term meaning impregnable, unable to be stormed but now has a very specific colloquial meaning popular with teenagers: being alone at home and having the ability to do what you want. The freedom of not being watched by a parent or superior or having the house to yourself, especially if your parents have left for the weekend.

AKIHI: Hawaiian word that vividly captures the experience of instant forgetfulness of information. It means “listening to directions and then walking off and promptly forgetting.”

KINTSUGI: A Japanese word coined when a 14th-century shogun broke his favorite tea bowl. In the traditional Japanese art of kintsugi, literally "golden joinery," artisans fill the cracks in broken pottery with gold, silver, or platinum transforming damaged pieces into something more beautiful than they were when new.

This Buddhist philosophy honors an object’s unique history and renders fault lines beautiful and strong. With people, this process is called post-traumatic growth.

KINEHORA: (Yiddish) Jewish expression used to ward off a jinx, one of countless protective folk actions to avoid, fool, or attack envious evil spirits.

IRUSU (Ear-roo-sue): (Japanese) A noun that means pretending nobody is at home when somebody rings your doorbell or knocks at your door.

ZUGUNRUHE (Tzuk An ROO EH): A German word for migration anxiety, coined in the 18th c. and now used by wildlife biologists around the world. When birds are on the brink of moving from their home territory they exhibit both sleeplessness and hyperactivity.

RESFEBER (RACE-fay-ber): (Swedish) It describes the restlessness before a journey begins, when anxiety and happy anticipation are tangled together.

TSUNDOKU: A Japanese slang term first used in the Meiji (MAY gee) era at the turn of century. It means buying books and not reading them, letting them pile up on the nightstand. It’s also used to refer to books ready for reading later when they are on a bookshelf.