Le Mot Juste

To that writer who’s searching for just the right word, the proverbial “mot juste“, searching in vain for a word that conveys just the right sense, emotion, thought, or whatever: maybe the problem isn’t you.  Maybe the problem is the language you speak. 

This article on Mental Floss was amusing to me: it contains a short list of useful words from other languages for which there is no direct English equivalent.  My favorites:

  • “Shemomedjamo”, from the Georgian language (i.e. the former Russian satelite, not the U.S. State, which also has it’s own language, y’all*), which refers to when you’re so into whatever you’re eating that you forget to stop when you’re full.  This has happened to me.  On more than one occassion.
  • “Pelinti”, from Buli, Ghana, which is when you put some over-hot food in your mouth and juggle it around with your tongue trying to cool it by blowing through your cheeks.  This has happened to me.  On more than one occassion.  My Dear Wife teases me mercilessly for it.
  • “Tartle”, from Scots, which is what happens when you’re about to introduce someone, but have forgotten their name.  This has happened to me.  I’m a chronic name-forgetter.

And others, just as fun.

It does have one swing-and-a-miss, though.  It defines “Pålegg” from Swedish as sandwich toppings (or “anything… you might consider putting into a sandwich”)… but we do have a word for that in English, it’s called: “condiments”.  It’s not even that rare a word in English.  Traditionally it’s ketchup and mustard and pickles and whatnot.  But in theory it could be… well… anything you might consider putting into a sandwich, isn’t it?

Anyway… for lovers of language, you might want to check it out.  Have fun.



*Note: Georgia, the U.S. State, does not actually have its own language.  Depending on who you’re speaking to, it’s a regional accent, or possibly a dialect.  There are a few non-standard words, phrases, and uses though.  At least in my experience as a non-native Georgian.