A Small Dictionary of Words and Phrases That Do Not Exist in English

1 A Small Dictionary of Words and Phrases That Do Not Exist in English Ataoso [ah-ta-oh-so] noun, Central American Spanish 1. Curmudgeon. It’s the first thing you said to me, while arcing over an office chair you had
already stretched out of shape. Like bamboo shoots, you said, they bend all the way back
without ever breaking. Exactly the way your back doesn’t, curmudgeon. I couldn’t believe
someone would use such a rotund word in the middle of breaking an office chair, grinning
all over yourself. No respect for school property in any line of your posture. 2. We’d just had pouring rain, supposedly a good thing after the drought, but my car ran out
of juice thanks to me leaving the light on all night, looking for the ferret who decided to
live in my garage. So I’d had no sleep and less comfort walking in between happy couples
enjoying the ‘light shower’. I was imagining how many ways there were for two people
hand in hand to slip on each other and fall, or at least get hypothermia. I ran half the way
and still arrived too late to teach my class. And here you were destroying my furniture for
idiotic tests, out of boredom. So much for interdepartmental collaboration. I threw you
out, made sure the office door was locked this time. Ridiculous. You were still smiling.
Ridiculous. Bilita Mpash [bee-lee-ta mm-pash] noun, Bantu 1. It’s funny, looking back, how many times you saved me with your smile. The sort of
funny that nestles under your shoulders and makes each step feel light and right. I learned
to love that smile, noticing its simple curve in the sway of a flag on campus, or the arc of
a student’s glasses. It was the kind that gave me every reason to look forward to falling
asleep, just to see what movements of the day would translate down the unconscious
portal and follow me in. I knew you would always be in there, as an incomprehensible
glimmer that only made sense between the two of us. And even in dreams I would wait
for the next day to come near, to see the real thing, and remember again my luck. 2. English has no word for a truly good dream, the kind that realigns your very bones. You
fixed this for me. You gave me an entire language instead. I could find you in every
syllable. Cavoli Riscaldati [cah-voh-lee ris-cahl-dah-tee] turn of phrase, Italian 1. I don’t mind that I have to get a new car. It’s fine. It’s not your fault. Don’t even suggest
that. You didn’t belong there. You deserve better. You are worth more than this. 2. I spewed out whatever nonsense I could heave on my tongue. I held you as long as I
could, trying to get a good look at the bruises. I wanted to be your friend, your pillow,
your latchkey. I wanted to take all your secrets and bury them so forcefully that even you
2 would never feel the holes they left behind. I wanted to save you with words, the only
way I know how, to be the paper you can write everything onto. 3. I wanted, more than anything, to make it so that you had never gone back there. 4. You are wonderful. You are solid. And inspiring and amazing and worth more than I or
anyone could know. You are, you are, you are, you are. I felt you slipping off where
words couldn’t go, I let sounds fly into the darkness. I’ve never wished I could be with
you like I did that day. Denize Dusen Yilana Sarilir [deh-nis-eh doo-shen yi-lahn-a suh-rill-ur] turn of phrase, Turkish 1. The second time we met I was also wet. One of the tepid mixers supposedly good for
student-professor interaction that, thanks to funding cuts, they have professors manage
almost singlehandedly. I was waiting for the drunken revelry to start, sitting by the table
and chatting with the few good ones at our so called bastion of learning. This place had
gyms and national parks to its name. These kids didn’t want to network, they wanted to
come to summer camp. 2. Why do you hold a mixer at a pool? Why in the world do you not warn someone when
they’re too distracted by the crowd to notice the edge of said pool? 3. “What, you’ve never seen a washed up academic before?” That got a few laughs, after
stunned silence I could never manage in the classroom. You were smirking behind a
crowd of students, rummaging around behind them, and then you hit them over the head
with a pool noodle. 4. Only you can make speedwalking with a pool noodle shaped like a neon green snake look
graceful. 5. I would have left after that, if there were any towels to dry off with. Accursed budget
cuts. Rather than get water all over my car, I decided to sunbathe dry. It’s not like I could
embarrass myself any further that day. And to your credit, you were the only one to join
me, start to end. 6. I’m pretty sure – I hope – it was for yourself as much was it was for me. Eellogofusciouhipoppokunurious [eel-loh-goh-foo-shee-oh-hip-pah-poh-kuh-nu-ree-us] adjective, non-standard English 1. No way. Absolutely not. That can't be a word. Seriously? 2. You're laughing at my bug eyes. “You look so shaken up! Of course it is, it's right here in
the dictionary. Look, a bunch of college kids made it up, it just means good. Good! Dandy
Ivy leaguers shaking in their boots, figure some fancy words'll prove they're still better
than everyone else. German imitators couldn't label their pronouns with two pens!” you're
still a little bitter about not getting in, but the jokes are a good sign. 3. My turn. I don't think I can beat 30 letters, so I start flipping through and showing off my
favorite words. Bibliobibuli. Chatoyant. Tintinnabulation. Epitome. You give me a look at
the last one. 3 4. “No, look, we have epi like epicenter, and tome like book, epi-tome, center book, the
important thing in the middle. How else would you say it? Eh-pit-oh-me?
That's...ridiculous.” You're laughing again. “I still do the same thing with primary, like,
why are we prying Mary? We should be primming the airy!” We get more glares, trying to
shush each other and absolutely failing. 5. I knew we could be good friends after this. There's something special in meeting another
person who's read more books than they've met people, who can share the uniquely
strange experience of finding out you've been speaking a slightly different language than
everyone around you. Well. Almost everyone. Folkelig [fohl-ke-lig] adjective, Norwegian
1. I offered to walk with you to my frisbee game once, after one of the group meetings that
talks about the importance of departments talking amongst each other without ever
allowing the talking to actually happen. You looked positively relieved for a reason to
leave early. Along the way I pointed out the berries that are edible on campus, and the
ones that really definitely aren't. I made sure you could tell the difference before I let you
eat any of them, no matter how much you pouted. You wouldn't have gotten anything
worse than a stomach ache, but I'd still have felt terrible. After some mouthfuls you
plucked the good ones and held them in your shirt, smiling as they bounced above your
exposed belly like a little bubbling fountain. 2. The game was raucous. Two people kept forgetting who was on their team, but our group
doesn't keep score, and we were mostly just passing to each other more and more
dramatically. You started shouting up new rules, and nobody minded. Soon you had to
make a running leap for the catch to count, then you had to do your best superhero pose
before you threw. Now the substitutes had to come help you throw berries at the other
players, and if they couldn't dodge, they would die in the most dramatic way they could.
Nobody knew what we were playing anymore, but it was the best game we'd had in a
while. Glas Wen [glahss wenn] noun, Welsh
1. I'm shaking and I can't stop. I don't trust myself to drive yet. I want to call you, but I can't
stop gripping the steering wheel. You need to know, I keep telling myself, you need to
come here so you can beat him. 2. He was by the figs. I walked half the aisle before I noticed him staring, with those same
dark eyes that seemed to hover in their sockets. He had the same corvidian smell, you
were right about that. He knew me, and he smiled. No, he sneered. Like there was a little
knife pulling up at his lips, and he was letting it make his face hideous. Blue gnarled teeth.
I had to grab the shelf to keep from punching him in public. 4 3. I got his license plate. I won't do anything without your orders. I know the long legal road
you'd be going down. But I'm going to keep your weapons here with me, whenever you
feel you need them. Hygge [hyoo-guh] noun, Danish
1. At the last minute your conference schedule cleared, and you could come with us, if
someone could drive three hours extra round trip to pick you up. After four months of
knowing you, what you were capable of, I could drive that with a smile. I knew how much
you'd appreciate it.
2. “This place is where my parents took me to throw snowballs and claim it was faeries. I'll
show you all the places we found them.” That's how I always introduce the pines we drive
through. It's so you know that the place is important to me, that I learned a lot about my
family there, and that I can still be a little whimsical, under the right circumstances. You
give a little smile and just say 'I'd like that.' And I can tell you mean it entirely.
3. There's no snow this time, just the ghost of a frost, and plenty of bugs. We play frisbee
golf in shorts. I feel very small between the mountains that drip down water. Like a single
brushstroke among scrolls and scrolls.
4. The fire's stopping the bugs now. It's twilight, and the same unique sort of gorgeous. You
look me in the eye, happy tired lines all over your face. I can see grey specks in your eyes
I 've never seen before, lit up by the fire. “I'd like to have your hand for a bit,” you tell me,
and I love the way you ask. As solemn as I've seen you, and like it's mine to give away
entirely. And we sit, gloves off, not minding the other's smirks or elbow prods. I have no
idea how long we sit there. Not long enough.
Iktsuarpok [Eet-soo-ahr-pohk] noun, Inuit
1. It doesn't have to be dating, I like what we're doing now. I know it's hard for two
academics to keep their social lives along with the daily burrows into papers. Just pop in
my window every few days, we can keep doing what we are already. I just don't want that
to go away. But if you want to date, be an us, I'd really like that. But no pressure, at all.
Really. Just think about it and let me know. Preferably before I explode.
2. I used to be a normal person before you showed up. I could look out the window and
appreciate the passage of time. Now I get stuck, and each second feels like a bump on
sandpaper, and you're still not here. I've practiced this speech a hundred times, waiting for
you to appear. I really, really, hope you say yes.
5 Jayus [jay-oos]
slang noun, Indonesian 1. “What happened when Redbeard the pirate fell into the blue sea? He was marooned.” I
snort out loud at that. 2. How many tickles does it take to tickle a squid? Ten Tickles. You grimace with your
tongue out. 3. Why can't you hear a pterodactyl go to the bathroom? The p is silent. I only barely
manage to stifle myself. 4. I know someone who talks like an owl. Oh yeah, who?! I lean far back in my chair
waiting for you to get it. When you do it's a big honking spit of laughter. Oh good one,
you say with a golf clap, golly jolly good. 5. I have to go shut the door to muffle our cackling, and I don't even have the strength to.
We're both heaving up and down. These jokes are awful. Absolutely terrible. Thank god
we both keep a collection. Kintsukuroi [keen-tsu-koo-roy] noun, Japanese
1. I don't know how to make this better. Maybe you'd have been someone else if it didn't
happen. But despite all that you're still here. I can watch you walk around the rooms of my
apartment like a blind cat for hours if it means you'll feel safe again. But I can't say
anything. Words are my breath, and I'm afraid every one I try will feel like an axe digging
up old wounds.
2. It's been two weeks. I hand you tissues, tea mugs, magazines, making sure I don't touch
you without you watching it happen. You've been coming more frequently, I want to say.
But I don't. Knowing I calm you somehow is enough.
1. After another hour you turn to me. You can't pretend this didn't happen, you say. That's
pretending I'm not who I am now. There are cracks in me. There's a hint of the sheen in
your eyes I remember, when you look me in the eye for the first time in days. There are
cracks in me. But I'm going to line them with gold. Lacuna [ləәˈk(y)o͞ onəә] noun, Latin
1. “I'll write you. With a pen. So you know I'm taking my time getting the words right.”
2. I knew you needed time for yourself, to anchor yourself in your parents, who against all
odds can still treat you exactly the way you need. People you could talk to without
opening yourself entirely. And you knew I couldn't be your only support, for both our
6 3. You could be here, and yet you are not. I'd almost forgotten what being alone feels like.
Not having to check my every step is somehow freeing. The milk is always where I left it.
4. Still. The gap in my bed feels far, far too big. Mamihlapinatapei [ma-mee-lah-pee-nah-tyah-pai] noun, Yagan
1. By the time you showed up I had forgotten all of my notes. I could barely look at you
without flushing. I think you took it as more than unease.
2. Our first big awkward silence, swelling until we both felt pressed against the wall. I
couldn't say it, I felt terrible. Yet you weren't leaving. Just sitting on the couch looking
uncomfortable in yourself, and looking very intently, at me.
3. That’s when I first realized it. You were shy too, of yourself, of us. Something in me
uncurled itself. And for once I moved before the words came.
4. 'I'm lucky to know you. I'd like to keep knowing you. I'd like to...start using we more.'
5. Just for a moment there were no words caught in the place between our mouths; for one
moment there was no space left to fill.
Neko-neko [nay-koh nay-koh] noun, Indonesian
1. I'm the sort of moron who locks their most important possessions, like their keys, inside
their office, on the third story of a locked building.
2. You're the sort of moron who decides the best thing to do is climb the rain gutters and
jump two rooftops to break into my window with a pipe cleaner. 3. Fortunately you know how to fall. And fortunately I work right next to the health
building. And fortunately you promised to never ever do that again. I'm lucky you listen.
You bouncy little moron. 'O'onitua [oh-on-ee-tuwa] 'onirR.ftia verb, Maori
1. “The campus is big enough that I don't ever actually see him, especially now that I don't
want to. And I know you worry, but I'm getting better. I can walk by him without
hyperventilating now. He knows he can't do anything to me out here."
2. “It's a question of principles. I would love to see him jailed. He's cretinous, odious,
disgusting. He hasn't done a jot of work in a decade. He's too busy laying everything on
us. But I'm invested in my PhD and I can't afford to eat these loans without something to
wash them down with. I work with him for as long as I need to, and then I move out. And
I'm taking you with me,” you say, smiling. I want to hold your hand.
3. It's your decision, it's always your decision. I couldn't do anything if I wanted to, without
proof. But I'm still going to, always and forever, imagine him with daggers up his butt. 7 Packesel [pah-ke-sehl] noun, German
1. The only thing I will never like about you: half your bodyweight comes with you on
every trip, stuffed in hideous duffel bags. I used to feel relaxed walking the airport to the
hotel. But to your credit, you do give fantastic backrubs once we're there. Qualunquismo [Kwa-loon-kweys-moh] noun, Italian
1. Is this our first real fight? Over politicians? Not even politics? I swear there are some
good politicians out there fighting for what they care about. My dad is one of them. It
hurts me knowing you just lump him in with everyone else trying to cheat us. Chomsky
isn't the only one with a book out. Read some Rawls. Some goddamn Jefferson.
2. It's not even that I'm angry at you, really. I'm angry at the missed conversation. We could
have had another reason to stay up all night together. And now I don't want to look at you.
I just want a couch to turn into a little fortress of venom.
3. Alright. Yes. I am angry at you.
Razliubit [Ruh-zlee-oo-beet] noun, Russian
1. Sometimes I wonder if I've stumbled into the wrong life. I think about how simply and
carelessly I fell for you, and I grow afraid all of those days could just wash back. It would
be like they never happened. Or worse, like they might as well not have.
2. What are we doing to each other? What will we destroy, to compromise ourselves into
each other's arms? Could I be a better person, a happier person, if we just left well
enough away? 3. Could you be?
Schlimazel [Schlee-mah-zayl] noun, Yiddish 1. I fucking hate ferrets.
2. I fucking love that you stick around to help me find it. And that you've already named it
3. And I have to say, a full outfit getting drenched in motor oil after falling over a ferret, a
bruise on my forearm, and a few days of ringing ears from getting a bucket stuck on my
head, is pretty well worth seeing you that delighted in your schadenfreude.
4. Thank you for apologizing about the politicians. I'll get you one of my dad's books. I bet
he would have loved talking to you too.
8 Torschlusspanik [torsh-lees-pa-nihk] noun, German
1. A month after that night you came over and asked for my hand again. Then you didn’t
want me to touch you. Then you did. We settled on sitting on both arms of the couch,
ballasting each other.
2. “I just – what if I never get over this? What if I'm 35 and haggard and out of work and I
still can't walk by strangers in the hallway? What if that was it, the best years of my life,
and everything from here is my personal slide into – bitterness? I don't want to be that
person. I can feel myself becoming that person.” You're actually shaking. This is why you
always leave so abruptly now. Thank you for letting me see it. Thank you for asking for
help. 3. “So gates are closing. There are a lot of gates. A lot of gates! I'll be here to help you find
the right one. And if it's really bad – well, I can fling you over all of them. You can sneak
in to your dream life like a ninja.” 4. Not exactly sauve of me. But I pull my best confident smile. You don't stop shaking, and
you still look worried, but you also look grateful. And if that's the best I can do, I'll take it. Utepils [oot-er-pillss] noun, Norwegian 1. It's the first day we can go outside with less than two coats, and we're going to have a
picnic. Don't even need to chill the drinks. With this weather!
2. I managed to convince a few other friends to join us, and we all reach our hill about the
same time. Higher than the campus belltower, we can see the entire city and harbor
beyond, with fog gliding along the water at last getting bathed in sunlight again. I've
missed this view.
3. When I turn around you're climbing a tree, to look at a birdhouse, you yell down to me.
Everyone makes noises about how eccentric you still are, but I catch my breath. For the
first time since that day on my couch, you're not wearing a long sleeve shirt. Your skin
looks better than the vista behind me. I hand you a sandwich when you come down, and
ask for a hug, and you answer with the best one you've given in months. We keep each
other warm, and manage to enjoy everyone else's company besides. Vodnik [vohd-neek] noun, Czech
1. Horror movies, your favorite guilty pleasure. This one has vampiric water spirits that trap
children’s souls in once they drown, and a good looking cop out to save their souls. It's
all rather gruesome for my taste, but you seem glued to it. And glued to me, so it's a good
night regardless. 2. After the credits you give me little handmade scroll. To celebrate a completed thesis, you
tell me. It's a long, long list of words you like that English doesn't have. As I unwrap it,
9 you say it's inspiration for fiction, now that you finally have your writing hours back to
3. I'm grateful, but reticent. I've never met the people who use these words. Isn't this just
bottling other people's souls to study and steal? You take my hand. “You never met
Shakespeare either. We steal from everyone who came before us, yeah? You're worried
about it. That means you'll find a way to make others care too.
4. “That's what you do. Make others care.”
Wabi-Sabi [wah-bee sah-bee] noun, Japanese
1. It's wonderful seeing you using clothing to celebrate body instead of hide it. You're less
colorful than before, but you're more solid now. There's beauty in the way you arch your
back and set your jaw. And it extends around you. The little notes you leave in my
kitchen, the way you make order out of the ridiculous.
2. I feel complete with you. The closing gates can stay closed, if they have to. We'll weld
them shut together.
Xawaxan [xah-wah-xan] greeting, toltichi yokuts
1. It doesn't have to be marriage. I like what we're doing now. I know it's hard for two
academics to keep their social lives along with the daily burrows into papers. Just pop in
my window every few days, we can keep doing what we are already. I just don't want that
to go away. But if you want to marry, be us forever, I'd really like that. But no pressure, at
all. Really. Just think about it and let me know. Preferably before I explode.
2. I can't imagine going back to my life before you showed up. Every moment with you is
the best I've ever had. I've practiced this speech a thousand times, waiting for you to
appear. I really, really, really, really, hope you say yes.
3. Or you can beat me to it. That works too.
Ya’arburnee [Yah-ar-bur-nay] turn of phrase, Arabic
1. This is us. Your parents cheer us on, and mine come up to hug them. This is us, now and
forever. Or however long we can last. Walking down the aisle with you by my side, I feel
the crowd's applause like gentle currents above our own deep sea. It's selfish of me, but in
that moment I realize I want to see all your days. Every single one of them. Living even
one without you would destroy me. I could swim in everything you are for the rest of my
life, and never come up for air.
2. I do. Always.
10 Zhongyong [djung-yung] noun, Mandarin
1. Where do we go from here? We have two more decades to live twice over. My journals
will one day look like the ecstatic scribblings of a idealistic youth. Who will you be in
thirty years, what words will you choose to bathe in? Can we keep each other close
enough to speak the same language, day after day?
2. I guess so. I guess I'll do a few dishes and you'll pick up the rest on my bad days. You'll
need time alone and time touching me and time when I'm just in the room reminding you
how much you are loved. We'll probably hate each other a little, but we'll love each other
more. And written down or not, what better way to spend our little lives but in orbit
around what we hold dear?
3. Happy anniversary, love.