Words With No Direct English Translation


  • Shouganai –  connected to the idea of fate, this word means that something can’t be helped, so why worry about it?Komorebi
  • Komorebi – the sort of scattered, dappled light effect that happens when sunlight shines in through tree
  • Koi No Yokan – the feeling upon meeting someone that falling in love with him or her is inevitable.
  • Tsundoku –  The act of leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piling up together with other such unread books.
  • Wabi-sabi – accepting the natural cycle of growth and decay; Finding beauty in the imperfections, an acceptance of the cycle of life and death.
  • Kyoikumama – mother who pushed her children into academic achievements
  • Age-otori – to look worse after a haircut
  • Aware – the bitter sweetness of a brief and fading moment of transcendent beauty
  • Chindogu – a solution to a common problem that’s pretty useless otherwise
  • Ikigai – a reason to get up in the morning, a reason to live
  • Nekama – a man who pretends to be a woman on the internet



  • Schadenfreude – a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.3710_002-version-2
  • Waldeinsamkeit – the feeling experienced while alone in the woods, connecting with nature.
  • Fernweh – feeling homesick for a place you have never been to
  • Backpfeifengesicht – a face badly in need of a fist
  • Schnapsidee – an ingenious plan one hatches while drunk
  • Entlistungsfreude – the satisfaction afforded by crossing things off lists
  • Torschlusspanik – literally meaning “gate closing panic”; the fear of diminishing opportunities as one ages
  • Kabelsalat – tangled up cables



  • Glas wen – this literally means a “blue smile”; one that is sarcastic or mocking.



  • Aşermek – the experience of craving certain foods while pregnant



  • Pana po’o – the act of scratching one’s head in order to remember the location of a misplaced object
  • Akihi – listening to directions and then walking off and promptly forgetting them means that you’ve gone “akihi.”



  • Forelsket – the specific feeling experienced while falling in love, rather than simply being in love.
  • Utepils – to sit outside on a sunny day enjoying a beer



  • Razbliuto – a feeling a person has for someone he or she once loved but no longer feels the same way about
  • Toska – a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause.
  • Pochemuchka – a person who asks too many questions



  • Shemomedjamo – this word describes when you continue to eat an entire meal in spite of feeling full.
  • Zeg – the day after tomorrow



  • Mangata – the glimmering, road-like reflection that the moon creates on the water.
  • Lagom –  associated with moderation, the word means not too much, not too little, but just the right amount. It typically refers to the etiquette of taking your share.
  • Tretar – on its own, “tår” means a cup of coffee and “patår” is the refill of said coffee. A “tretar” is therefore a second refill, or a “threefill.”
  • Gokotta – to wake up early in the morning with the purpose of going outside to hear the first birds sing



  • Psithurism – the sound of leaves rustling in the wind.
  • Istoriesmearkoudes – literally “stories with bears”; refers to narrated events so wild and crazy it seems that they can’t possibly be true.
  • Parea – a group of friends that get together to enjoy nothing but sharing their life experiences, philosophies, ideas and values.



  • Han – a collective feeling of oppression and isolation; it’s as amorphous a notion as love or hate: intensely personal, yet carried around collectively, a national torch, a badge of suffering tempered by a sense of resiliency.
  • Won – the reluctance on a person’s part to let go of an illusion
  • Guje – the day before yesterday



  • Tampo – withdrawing affection from a person when one’s feelings have been hurt.



  • Iktsuarpok –  the frustration of waiting for someone to turn up; the feeling of anticipation that leads you to keep looking outside to see if anyone is coming



  • Culaccino – the stain left on a table from a cold glass of water
  • Gattara – a woman, often old and lonely, who devotes herself to stray cats
  • Commuovere – to be moved in a heart-warming way, usually relating to a story that moved you to tears



  • Hygge – the act of relaxing with loved ones and good friends, usually while enjoying food and drink; designates the mentality and demeanour of being warm, accommodating and friendly. Politically, it finds an echo [in Denmark] to welcome political refugees.
  • Kaelling – a woman cursing at her children



  • Mencomot – stealing things of small value, mostly for fun rather than out of necessity.
  • Jayus – a joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh



  • Saudade – melancholic longing or nostalgia for a person, place or thing that is far away from you; a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy
  • Cafune – tenderly running your fingers through your lover’s hair



  • Goya – the suspension of disbelief that can occur, often through good storytelling; apparently; it is said



  • Fargin – to wholeheartedly appreciate the successes of others
  • Luftmensch – refers to someone who is a bit of a dreamer and literally means “air person.”
  • Shlimazl – a chronically unlucky person



  • Mamihlapinatapei – A wordless yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start



  • Kilig – the feeling of butterflies in your stomach, usually when something romantic or cute takes place.



  • Papakata – To have one leg shorter than the other



  • Illunga – a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time.



  • Kaapshljmurslis – a person who is cramped while riding a public transportation



  • Friolero – a person who is especially sensitive to cold weather and temperatures
  • Pena ajena – the feeling of being embarrassed for another person
  • Madrugada – the time of day occurring between late at night (i.e. past midnight) and early morning
  • Sobremesa – the time spent after lunch or dinner, talking to the people you shared the meal with



  • Litost – a feeling that synthesizes grief, sympathy, remorse and longing; a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery
  • Proznovit – to call a mobile phone only to have it ring once so that the other person would call back allowing the caller not to spend money on minutes

DFW’s “This Is Water”

“Asaish-i-do giti tafsir-i-in do harf ast

Ba dostan talattuf, ba dushmanan mudara”

-Hafiz, Ode 6

“What holds in peace this two-fold world, let this two-fold sentence show

Amity to every friend, courtesy to every foe”

Source: Transcription, Audio 1, Audio 2

For the Irishman, M.K.

In my limited opinion, the essence of the speech was tolerance and patience – two basic, inherent, innate virtues common to all human life (maybe even animals). From tolerance and patience springs up observation of people, of events, of general things around us. And this observation is a root of understanding. This understanding then later on springs into varying perceptions of life which results in the element of “choice” the DFW talks about. I know towards the end he explicitly states that this has nothing to do with religion, but for me, personally, it has a lot to do with religious teachings. I believe that humanity is rooted deeply in religion and there is a reason why patience, tolerance, perseverance have been given the highest regard in Islam.

It was a little hard for me to relate to the part where DFW states that one believes in being the absolute center of the universe and that one is the focal point of all one’s experiences. I believe in nothingness of the self which disregards the “I’m the center of the universe” point. And my belief in chaos theory disregards that my experiences are mine alone, were originated because of me and that I was the cause, result, effect of it all. All our experiences are “shared”, and the individual experiences aren’t individual in the sense that they are mine per se, but that it “happened” to happen to me.

I particularly admired how he discredited the crux of his speech (tolerance, patience) as being moral, virtuous, ethical principles that one “must” live by. Perhaps in the modern era these words have taken on a negative meaning because of the prevailing ideologies of freedom on one side, and, say, religious extremism on another. Maybe also because the new generation is actually repulsed by use of these words. They are too, as DFW himself said, didactic. I too loathe it when someone lectures me on issues like morality and what not. But all meanings & interpretations of the words aside, the reality is that these are the intrinsic elements that make us human.

I totally, completely agree with his argument on choice and education and how the latter grooms the former. What he calls knowledge is what I call information. And what he calls awareness, is what I call Knowledge. Awareness is an offshoot of Knowledge. We are spoon-fed with information from the very beginning of our conscious life, into our school life, professional life, and personal life. Knowledge however encompasses not only that which tends to our material, world life, but also our spiritual life. Hence first understanding what “awareness” is, what choice is, and how to put it in practice. An excellent example of “choice” is prevalent is a natural process of perceiving colors. My perception of the color red will be different to yours. So choice is hard-wired into us already. I chose to interpret what DFW says “the mystical oneness of all things deep down” as something relevant to the Oneness of God. You choose your meaning according to your set of beliefs.

Once a driver of a huge van carrying a heavy load of furniture happened to rashly cut our car from the front. My immediate response was to complain of how ignorant the driver was which I made vocal enough for my significant other to hear. In the brief moment, my mind had jumped to conclusions. That he must be uneducated, illiterate, having no regard for other people on the road (ironically, though not as explicitly, I was doing the same subconsciously). I had presumed that he must be on drugs which was fueled by my bias against truck drivers. That’s when my significant other cut in, and told me how I was the one sitting in the air-conditioned car, how I had to reach my destination with ease, and had no right whatsoever to complain since I was more blessed. He was right. Now that I think about it, the various possibilities of reasons why that particular driver rushed past us make me sink in shame. Maybe he was paid for every trip he made, the more shifts he covered, the more money he made, and the more money he made, the more he could secure his family’s financial well-being. Maybe the sweltering heat was coming down harshly on him and he thought of unloading the burden and reaching home as quickly as possible. But with that momentary, harsh judgment and bitter pronouncements on his character, I had stooped far too low than my supposed “education” allowed me. I, too, was a monster then. If not in my actions then at least in my thoughts.

And this is what DFW specifically addresses too. Observation of the world around us frees us from the grandeur that is self-absorption. Lately, I’ve been baffled by our lack of introspection, that is to truly ponder upon the self, the big questions of life and death and so on. Ironically, this reflects my own preoccupation with self, that I completely turn a blind eye to observation – to contemplate on those and that around me. While there is an obvious distinction between self-absorption and introspection, abundance of the latter can eventually lead to arrogant self-centeredness. A writing course I took a few months ago expressly laid stress on the importance of honing one’s observational skills as they play a pivotal role in telling stories. If I am to stand in the queue of DFW’s check-out counter, and fail to observe and understand the surroundings, I will be too caught up in my own head to make sense of what is happening around me, and why?

Sympathy, empathy, appreciation, identification, recognition, realization all are a result of profound understanding of ourselves and those around us. This comprehension gives us a choice – a choice to be either happy or sad. Choice is a blessing, and a freedom in itself.

(On a side note, I know all this is inclined towards Choice or Free-Will & that no where has predestination or fate been included, but that is a separate discussion altogether. I believe it is all balanced in the great scheme of things. And only God knows best.)

“Aurad baztarabam awwal bawujud

Juz hairatam az hayat chize nafzud;

Raftem ba’Ikrah wa nadanem che bud

Za in amadan wa raftan wa budan maqsud.”

Omar Khayyam

“He brought me hither to my great surprise

From life I gather but a dark surmise;

I go perforce. Why come? Why live? Why go?

I ask these questions, but find no replies.”


One of the chief delights of life reside in the most fleeting, seemingly insignificant moments of life such as scraping with the spoon, the last residue of sugar at the bottom of the tea cup that somehow managed to escape the constant stirring whilst thoughts unrelated to the act being performed by your hands were whirring inside your mind. That residue of sugar is diluted, has lost much of its crunch, and is soft upon the tongue all the while retaining the savoury flavour or green tea that had graced the cup a few moments ago. When much of the cup’s contents are gulped down and what remains is that mildly warm sip, you reach out for the table spoon that rests on the tray, eager to scrape out the wet sugar, and indulge yourself in some of the finest yet unnoticed pleasures of life.