Untranslatable

HONGIK UNIVERSITYBFA THESIS


Language plays a constitutive role in the way that people experience, understand and perceive the world. There are many unique, untranslatable, words from languages all over the world. These words can give us a window into other cultures and into ourselves.

The untranslatable project expresses these unique words visually through 3D modelling.



L'esprit d'escalier

le - spri - de - scali - eh
French

This expression refers to a phenomenon that most people are familiar with. It is the predicament of thinking of the perfect reply too late. When you leave a party or gathering after an argument and are halfway down the staircase when you think of the perfect thing to say. It is too late to go back up the stairs and make a comeback. This scenario was described by a french philosopher, who called it, directly translated, “staircase mind”.




답답해
dap - dap - heh
Korean

This Korean adjective describes a stuffy or suffocating feeling you can get in a crowded room, but also a feeling you get after spending all day at home. It is also good for describing the kind of weight you have on your chest when you are frustrated, like there is something trapped inside that can not get out.





يقبرني
yaq - ber - neh
Arabic

A hopeful declaration that you will die before someone you love deeply, because you cannot stand to live without them. This Syrian and Lebanon Arabic expression literally translates to “May you bury me” – It expresses love so attached that the speaker wishes to die before their loved one so that they may never experience losing them. There are several other expressions in Arabic that express the same kind of love-declaration through stating that one will rather die than to live without the other person.





Torschlusspanik
to - shluss - pa - nik
German

Torschlusspanik is about one’s realisation that life is passing by them, and the subtle fear of diminishing opportunities as they grow older. This german word literally translates to “gate-close-panic”. The origin of the word comes from medieval times when you had to make it back inside the city gates before they closed, or else you would get stuck out in the cold all night. But these days, the term is used in a metaphorical way.





Gigil
gi - gil
filipino

Gigil refers to the trembling or gritting of the teeth in response to a situation that overwhelms your self-control. It is commonly described as an irresistible urge to squeeze something cute. The longer version of the word is panggigigil, but it is often shortened to gigil. It is not necessarily cuteness that provokes this response. Sometimes, when you get frustrated with someone, you can have the gigil reaction to the person as well.





ヨコメシ
yo - ko - me - shi
japanese

Yokomeshi is the uncomfortableness and awkwardness of trying to speak a different language you’re not too familiar with. It literally translates to “sideways meal”. This expression arose when most restaurants in Japan wrote their menus vertically, while a menu at a western restaurant would be written horizontally, sideways. For Japanese working abroad it became a common expression to use when having dinner with the locals. Over time it became more metaphorical and now refers to the stress that comes with speaking a foreign language.