Le Mot Juste

Le Mot Juste. French for ‘the right word at exactly the right time’. There seems to be a LOT of that taking up some serious real estate in my head the past few days. I admit I’ve become a word hoarder overnight. A junkie. Yesterday’s posts gave me such a high. I felt awash with love for words I’d never heard of before. I did a little research and have found plenty more hiding in the infinite corners of the Internet.

Here you go. I hope you enjoy them as I have, and use them in good health.

Dozywocie (Polish)

Many cultures share this concept, but Polish sums it up in a single word. “Parental contract with children guaranteeing lifelong support”

Jung (Korean)

A special feeling that is stronger than mere ‘love’ and can only often be proved by having survived a huge argument with someone.

Toska (Russian)

Vladimir Nabokov describes it best: “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”

Ubuntu (Bantu languages, South Africa)

“I am what I am because of who we all are.” (from a translation offered by Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee)

“A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

Mokusatsu (Japanese)

Mokusatsu is when you bargain and you feel the buyer’s offer is very low. Thus, you keep silent. This makes the buyer understand that his offer is not good enough, while enabling him not to lose face.

This word was used by the Japanese emperor in response to Roosevelt’s ultimatum.

Pena Ajena (Spanish)

Shame experienced on behalf of another person, even though that person may not experience shame.

Gummiservi (Turkish)

What you feel when you see moonlight shining on water.

Qarrtsiluni (Iñupiaq)

“Sitting together in the darkness, waiting for something to burst.”

Vovohe Tahtsenaotse (Cheyenne)

To prepare the mouth before speaking by moving or licking one’s lips.

Komorebi (Japanese)

The sort of scattered, dappled light effect that happens when sunlight shines in through tree leaves.

Hiraeth (Welsh)

A feeling of longing associated with displacement, but not necessarily displacement from one’s original home. An intense yearning to be somewhere you are not.

Firgun (Hebrew)

An act of saying nice things or doing nice things to another person without any other purpose, but to make the other feel good about what he is or what he does.

Mamihlapinatapei

Yagan (indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego) – “the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start”

Ya’aburnee

Arabic – Both morbid and beautiful at once, this incantatory word means “You bury me,” a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them.

Litost

Czech – The closest definition is a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery. Milan Kundera remarked that “As for the meaning of this word, I have looked in vain in other languages for an equivalent, though I find it difficult to imagine how anyone can understand the human soul without it.”

Empalagarse (Spanish)

The sensation your tongue has after eating too many sweets.

Razliubit (Russian)

To fall out of love.

Hanyauku (Rukwangali, Namibia)

The act of walking on tiptoes across warm sand.

Sabsung (Thai)

The thing that brings you back to life or livens up your day. Whatever it is that makes you happy to be alive.

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8 thoughts on “Le Mot Juste

  1. “Oh My God,” as you crazy teenagers say nowadays. ‘Mamihlapinatapei’ is now my favorite word.
    But I don’t get ‘Empalagarse:The sensation your tongue has after eating too many sweets.’ I see the words ‘too many sweets,’ but I just don’t get the concept. I’m pretty sure that ‘too many sweets’ cannot exist in the real world.

    1. Well see, I get this because in India we have these things called ‘Jalebis’. Serpentine and curled into circles, it is a fried, sugar-syrup based indian sweetmeat that is so sweet, you feel your tongue go dead. Jalebis also make for great torture implements in prison where interrogators make inmates eat one after another, without a drop of water for relief. True.

  2. been searching your blog for your name, or anything that would give your identity away. I don’t know you. Or so it seems. Your name will suffice. Please.

  3. Hello it’s me, I am also visiting this web page daily, this site is truly fastidious and the users are truly sharing nice thoughts.

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