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Wait, there's a word for that?

Posted by Stephen Heuser  October 18, 2012 11:21 AM

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Macaree illo 1.jpg

The world is full of intensely useful terms we don’t quite have in English. Schadenfreude, zen, and savoir-faire, just to take a few, have arrived unpasteurized in the language because they so perfectly crystallize something we didn’t have a way to say.

There are plenty more out there, ready to be pressed into service. That sense of hesitation when you can’t remember someone’s name? The Scots call it tartle. Feeling apathetic about politics? In Italy, that’s a nameable emotion: qualunquismo. Those words come from a project by Irish artist Fuchsia MacAree, who illustrated a whole alphabet’s worth and turned them into a poster. She calls them “untranslatable words,” but you might just think of them as the vocabulary you didn’t know you needed – yet. See the rest at her website. (H/T to former Brainiac Josh Rothman for this one.)

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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