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)
To eat past the point of being full just because the food tastes good.
Here is a word that describes such a quintessentially American phenomenon it’s shocking that another culture came up with it first. After all, there are entire civilizations that have never heard of “never-ending pasta bowls” or “dessert pizzas.” Fortunately, the Georgians (the European Georgians, that is) devised a word to describe it exactly. “Shemomedjamo” is the act of eating to the point where your body says, “OK, we did it! We’re all done now,” and then muscling through another three steaks.
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.
Patriotism comes breaded and deep fried.
The literal translation for shemomedjamo is “I accidentally ate the whole thing,” which is a charming way of saying “Oh my God, why isn’t somebody stopping me?!”
Which neatly brings us to …
#8. Kummerspeck (German)
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.
“Oh God, it reminds me of heeeerrrrr!”
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).
“No, you stud … it’s the number of girls you’ve slept with. Now let’s leave the ’80s and go the gym.”
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.
Please note that icing makes a godawful lubricant.
What we’re saying is that if there were a product for sale in the United States called Grief Bacon, we can almost guarantee that it would sell off the shelves right around Valentine’s Day, Christmas and all 363 of the other saddest days of the year. Plus, with the recent trend of combining bacon with everything from chocolate to ice cream, it was only a matter of time before we combined it with grief just to see how that would taste.
“Tastes like the cold embrace of a razor. Until you pair it with Easy Cheese. Then it tastes awesome.”
#7. Hikikomori (Japanese)
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?
No idea. All we do is call 911 when the hallway starts to smell.
Because these people do exist — World of Warcraft even has its own syndrome named after it to account for the people who play the game so much that all of their friends think they moved away. We’re guessing there isn’t one person reading this who didn’t have at least one friend disappear from the social scene when WoW was in its heyday. Or maybe they survived only to have Skyrim claim them.
“Fus Ro Dah” is just Dovahkiin for “LOL stfu n00b.”
Well, Japan has named these unfortunate souls: the “hikikomori.” It had to be the Japanese who came up with a word for it, because the phenomenon is at its worst in Japan, where some people will go entire years without leaving their bedroom (this is also a country where, coincidentally, a record number of young people have no interest in sex). Psychologists in Japan think the epidemic is linked to societal pressures and constant bullying.
Japan makes people want to curl up and hide? No, really.
Nevertheless, we all know at least one person who’s right on the cusp of becoming one of the hikikomori, and if you don’t, ask yourself when you last saw sunlight.
#6. Gadrii Nombor Shulen Jongu (Tibetan)
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.
“I will create jobs for boxing managers and trainers. And maybe ninja knife fighters.”
It’s an old rule of politics — if you don’t like the question you were asked, just answer the one you wish they had asked instead. Here’s Sarah Palin doing a clumsily transparent job of it.
If you turn the sound off, it looks like a perfectly normal conversation between two batshit insane people.
But those of us not seeking political office can be just as guilty of this not-at-all-clever bit of skullduggery. Every once in awhile, when someone asks you a mundane question for which you have no answer, pride will intervene and refuse to let you cave to honesty. Before you know it, a question about whether you like a band you’ve never heard of devolves into a story about the time a bird shit in your friend’s eye while the two of you stopped to watch a couple of horses humping. In situations like this, gadrii nombor shulen jongu can, at the very least, convince people to never ask you another question ever again.
And now your favorite musical genre is horse sex.
#5. Iktsuarpok (Inuit)
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.
They have 40 words for “sudden onset cannibalism,” too, if you’re thinking of visiting.
The fact that iktsuarpok even exists as a word offers us all a sense of exactly what kind of isolation the Inuit people are subjected to every day. They will get all iktsuarpok-ed for the prospect of a guest like a kid for Santa Claus. So the next time you’re feeling sick to death of all the people around you, remember that somewhere there’s a group of people disconnected from civilization in subzero temperatures, just waiting for some hypothermic company to stumble past.
“Just chopping up some nice ice logs for the ice fire.”
#4. Kaelling (Danish)
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.”
“Don’t cry at me. You’re such a child.”
But where we rely on the long-winded “That-crazy-fucking-lady-down-the-street-who-someone-really-needs-to-call-CPS-on-but-no-one-will-because-she’s-scary-and-besides-she-probably-set-our-house-on-fire” to describe them, the Danish invented a single word.
We do not know the kaelling’s story. We are too afraid to make eye contact with her. Was the kaelling always like this? Did the father of the children know this before he made children with her? Is he now dead? Or, most frightening of all, did those kids make her that way?
Now we know that’s not the way to beat an indistinct yellow offspring.
Given that at least one of these women live in every neighborhood in the United States — regardless of how rich or poor that neighborhood is — it’s strange that we never came up with a name for it. Maybe it was because we were already calling her Mom.
#3. Neidbau (German)
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.
Remember when we told you about the crazy neighbor who built a 16-foot-high wall just to annoy the person living next to him? That’s an example of a “Neidbau,” a word that in German represents a very special and intense flavor of dickbaggery so potent it comes at the expense of the dickbag. It translates to “envy building,” and, honestly, if a guy constructs an entire building just to say “Screw you,” how can you not be flattered by that?
“Soooo … saw your erection … cool.”
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.
Which is why we’re building one around Canada, because they refuse to take their 30 miles of Montana back.
#2. Pochemuchka (Russian)
A person who asks too many questions.
So, your class/work meeting/couples therapy session is dragging on and you are just barely containing a hangover that’s making your internal organs try to crawl out of your mouth. Just when you think everybody has finally shut the hell up, it happens.
Son of a bitch.
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?
“I have secretly pooped somewhere. Is it on the TV or in your handbag?”
That’s when you realize that the guy is simply inventing irrelevant questions because he just likes the attention. You now truly know the meaning of despair, and the meaning of “pochemuchka.”
Naturally, this word comes from a country in which asking too many questions will result in death. But maybe more surprisingly, it originates from the children’s book Alyosha Pochemuchka, which is the story of a young boy who constantly asks “Why?” There are no copies of it online, so we can only assume it’s a parable about a Russian child who started getting too nosy about government affairs and was quickly taken care of.
He wants to ask TWO questions! Shooooot!
#1. Pilkunnussija (Finnish)
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.”
Check out that tail.
Let that delicious imagery sink in for a second: Some stubborn, miserable person slowly removing his or her sweater vest while caressing the pendulous dip and point of a comma before slowly climbing on top of it and thrusting away in quiet desperation. These are people who have taken the most boring, pedantic aspect of language and adopted that as their cause. It’s like a child on a basketball court dreaming of one day being a referee. And these people certainly exist. Take, for example, the Apostrophe Protection Society, who feel the need to protect this “much abused” punctuation mark from the grubby fingers of people like you.
The’yre pretty seriou’s about it.