from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego, is considered the world’s most succinct word — and hardest to translate.

It means: a look shared by two people, each wishing the other will initiate something that both desire but neither one wants to start.

The Hippie found Mamihlapinatapais on a website somewhere and shared it with me. I stashed it for safe keeping. And found it again today while digging around the computer for treasures (read as, transferring files). It’s a fun word. It got me thinking about fun words, or rather, words in general. The way I cringe when I hear “legit” because of the teenage abuse in our house. The way I giggle whenever some uses “exacerbate” and because of the irony of its often self-imposing definition. The way awesome words thrown into normal conversation makes my eyes brighten and my heart flutter.

I heart words.

The English language has over 200,000 words. New ones are voted into the official dictionary every year. Obsolete words are asterisked every generation. And thesauruses exist for a reason. There are tons of ways to write every single sentence, but the correct way is using the right words for expressing what you need to say. Mamihlapinatapais.

I actually have a file on my desktop where I tuck interesting words when I find them. And this one word made me do more. It begged me to search for other crazy words. It pulled me down a rabbit hole of internet links and giddy polysyllabic terms. And thus I found Magic Words—a lovely little website that blogs fun, interesting words. Sometimes from fiction, sometimes from history, and they got points for having Mamihlapinatapais (which, seriously, I wish I could pronounce!).

So this monday, instead of some crazy memory or thoughtful insight (feel free to flip those adjectives if you know me), I suggest you go check out Magic Words. Hell, grab their RSS feed while you’re there. It’s a happy little tidbit in your email every day and much more uplifting than the news usually is. You’ll be delighted, ecstatic, elated, glad, gleeful, gratified, happy, jubilant, overjoyed, pleased, thrilled, tickled you did…  =)

0 Responses to Mamihlapinatapais

  • wolfnoma says:

    Kelli, Thank you for the great blog and link. It is treasure trove of goodness. (And I wish I could pronounce the word Mamihlapinatapais myself.)

  • Jeff Prettyman says:

    Great blog with a perfect ending. My grandmother, who played it as emotionally close to the vest as any human I’ve ever known, would express the greatest joys in her life with, “I’m tickled to death”. She is also the inspiration behind me trying to keep the word “persnickety” alive. I implore anyone who reads this post to aid me in my efforts to prevent the word “persnickety” from going the way of the dinosaur.

  • Kelli says:

    moved and closed

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