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Backpfeifengesicht to Shemomedjamo: five fantastic words the English language lacks

With approximately one million words, the English language has arguably one of the biggest vocabularies in the world, and as translation is our business, we know them all.

Though we may have a word for almost everything, there are some crucial phenomena which are yet to be identified, leaving even the best translation agencies scratching their heads, in order to communicate vital emotions, impressions and ideas.

For an idea of exactly the sort of neat, accurate and imaginative words we’re missing, here’s a quick look at five of the best foreign words the English language lacks.

1. Backpfeifengesicht (German)

If you get schadenfreude (literally ‘pain joy’) from seeing someone get his well-deserved comeuppance, this word is for you.

Literally translated as ‘slap face’, backpfeifengesicht refers to those whose visages are badly in need of a punch.

2. Shemomedjamo (Georgian)

You know that feeling – when you’re full but the food is just so delicious and plentiful you can’t stop eating? Well, the Georgians have come up with a word to describe it.

Translated as “I accidentally ate the whole thing”, shemomedjamo or its English equivalent, may well find a place in our language before too long.

3. Saudade (Portuguese)

One of the more poetic words on the list, and one that can come up during audio-visual translations, saudade is a quick but romantic way to express the feeling that there’s someone or something you are longing for and love, but have lost.

4. Tartle (Scottish)

This onomatopoeic word refers to that embarrassing moment which arises when making introductions between friends or colleagues, and you momentarily panic and forget one party’s name. “Pardon my tartle” is a phrase we may well adopt, south of the border.

5. Kummerspeck (German)

Though they may not have as many words as English speakers, Germans really do know how to get to the heart of the matter, and this is no exception.

Literally translated as ‘grief bacon’, kummerspeck refers to the weight you put on through comfort eating.

Though it may take a while for these words to take their place in the English language, just knowing they’re out there is a delight for all creative translation agencies and language lovers.

So, the next time you’re piling on the pounds due to emotional eating or you stumble when making introductions, at least you’ll be able to put a name to it.

Our voice-over translators and German voice-over artists will be happy to include these words in your next German voice-over project!