January 2015 | In Untranslatable Words

By untranslatable, I mean words that exist in other languages but don't have a succinct equivalent in English (they may have near synonyms, but nothing that truly express the feeling of the word). 

Luftmensch [Yiddish]:
Refers to an Impractical dreamer, literally meaning "air person".
I spent the vast amount of January delving into the fantastical, hiding behind an inked mantle as I passed days writing and doodling to my heart’s content. Of course, many of these ideas and projects were suppressed by schoolwork and revision, but – due to a desire to create coupled with wishful thinking – it’s safe to say it was these dreams that preoccupied my January.

Tsundoku [Japanese]:
To leave a book unread after buying it, typically letting it pile up with other unread books.
I wasn’t the most faithful of readers this January. In fact, I was a pretty impulsive reader. I read what I wanted, when I wanted – which resulted in a couple of recent buys being pushed aside. [Don’t worry, I’ll get to them soon! I’m just waiting for the right moment for each one of them.]

Commuovere [Italian]:
To be moved in a heartwarming way, usually by a story which reduces you to tears.
Perhaps I wouldn’t go as far to say that I was moved to tears by any of the books I read, but I can certainly say The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zaf√≥n was wondrously heartwarming, whilst Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami was overwhelmingly beautiful at moments.

Akihi [Hawaiian]:
You've gone "Akihi" when you listen to directions before promptly forgetting them and walking the wrong way.
I have a penchant for mindlessly straying off course – although, not in the literal sense. January was a month where my desire to create obscured my need to actually do stuff. I wrote countless to-do lists, set myself targets and desperately tried to become organised. And yet, despite my clear instructions for myself, I found the blank notebooks sprawled across my desk a little too inviting. Thus, January was a month of (misdirected) chaotic creativity.

Wabi-sabi [Japanese]:
To find beauty in something considered imperfect.
A knock-on effect of dedicating the majority of the month to creative outlet is that I began to notice splendour in the most mundane things. And so a lot of this month’s writing focussed on the perfections within imperfections (which is quite different from my usual fantasy-driven stuff).

How was your beginning to 2015?
Books read this month: The Shadow of the Wind, Norwegian Wood, Elizabeth Is Missing, The Siege


  1. Love how you've laid out this post, Ruby. You've kick-started my love for words which English have no equivalent to! It's good to take it easy sometimes and just do what you want, when you want and let your creative monster loose! ;D

  2. I'm, admittedly, a language nerd. And I am obsessed with untranslatable words. There's something so fascinatingly beautiful about them.
    Love this post! :)

    1. Aha same here. And yes, "fascinatingly beautiful" is definitely the way to describe them!

  3. One of my hobbies (as strange of a hobby it sounds) is looking up words in other languages and so this post really appealed to me.
    Such an interesting way to wrap up your month!

  4. Woah, this post is beautiful!! the Italian "commuovere was appreciated (I'm Italian!), but the Hawaiian "akihi" and the japanese "wabi-sabi" are beautiful!! *-*

    Ps. I have a blog as well, if you want to stop by I'd appreciate it so much! It's both in Italian and in English :3 -> http://frannieinthepages.blogspot.com/

    1. Ooh "commuovere" is simply beautiful! And I'll check it out later. :)

  5. I love this post, Ruby! I have a passionate love for languages and words, so it was brilliant to read. Lovely!

  6. To leave a book unread and letting it pile up: we definitely need to come up with a word for this phenomena, seeing most of us booklovers come across this 'problem'

  7. This is such a wonderful post. I'm curious, how do you discover these words? Tsundoku is a word that would describe my book reading behavior as of late-- or perhaps my lack of book reading.

  8. I love this post. I have a Pinterest board called Words and many are just such as these!

    hiraeth (Welsh) -- a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.

    l'appel du vide (French) -- the unexplainable desire to jump when on the edge of a cliff.

    Happy February!

    (This is very late because I've been internet-less for a month but I'm now back in the game!)


I really appreciate your comments. Please check back if you've asked a question!