The English language is theorized to span nearly a million words but we’ve still missed essential ones.
Each year, the Merriam Webster tackles the ever-expanding lexicon of the English language, with the notation that language is ever evolving. That’s to say, there’s no definitive count of words in the English language because as we move past outdated ones, we’re also consistently adding new ones.
Most recently, after centuries of debate, “irregardless” was added to the dictionary. It seems that people’s constant mispronunciation had added to the word taking new meaning.
And an (infamous) example of the evolution of a word is the use of the word ‘gay’. In the 1700's, it was used to describe a person bursting with joy or happiness: someone of high spirit. Slowly, it came to mean someone was homosexual with the first use of new meaning dating back to the 1920s. Now, 2020, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone using it as it was originally intended. But still, in works ranging from early century poetry to the infamous novel “Lolita”, the historical footprint of the word remains.
Yet even as we invent and reinvent words in the English lexicon to suit our circumstances, we’ve missed some important ones.
So, let’s look at some of the words from foreign languages that perfectly bridge gaps left in the English language.
I love this word because who hasn’t related to it at least once in their lives?
This word means, in short, the outlandish talk resulting from consuming too much alcohol. Is there an English equivalent for this? ‘Drunk talk’ is the closet I could come up with. But I don’t think we have one as pithy as this German one; it’s a concise way to encapsulate that feeling of “it seemed really smart after four shots of warm Svedka but why did I email my ex five times about buying a llama last night”?
In fact, Schnapssidee translates directly to “booze idea”, though Germans also use it to describe crazy ideas people come up with even barring the presence of alcohol. And until Americans come up with a close English equivalent, I’ll continue using this word.
This lovely Japanese word translates into someone who purchases a great deal of books and doesn’t read half of them. I’m guessing this would fit the description of a great deal of Medium writers; it certainly fits into my own profile.
This word originates back to the start of Modern Japan in 1868 and has flourished ever since. So, if you find yourself surrounded by books that you spent your hard earned money on but have no desire or plans to open, this might be the perfect word to describe yourself as.
Yuán Fèn (Chinese)
This word (well, phrase) translates to “fate or chance that brings people together predestined affinity or relationship.”
And it’s applicable to all of us. If you’re lucky, you’ve already connected with less than a handful of people you who felt a deep kinship for. And, if your unlucky, you might have changed on the subversion of the above: people who have impacted ourselves in a way that’s not just negative, but might seem, in a way, a trick of fate, like Fitzgerld’s two bad drivers, heading towards each other at top speed.
This word applies to the fate driving all our human connections and can probably be applied to, at least, one of our more essential and personal relationships.
It’s a wonderfully simple word that manages to encapsulate an infinity of feeling. Because of the beautiful meaning behind it, it’s often used as an Arabic name for both men and women.
And it applies to all of us, especially during the pandemic, when one of the best ways to pass time seems to be blindly eating whatever is at hand.
Now, the definition goes a bit further and admits that the word often applies to people who eat even when they aren’t hungry. Once again, this word returns to the concept of bored eating or mindless snacking. Still, it’s such an an elegant and on the nose way to describe the action of going through those chips you don’t really like while staring at nothing just because they were there and your mouth demanded it.