Sometimes Just A (Foreign) Word Will Do

couple at dinner

Last week, I came across the word “Mamihlapinatapai.” This word exists in the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego and is listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the “most succinct word”, and is widely considered one of the hardest words to translate.

The basic gist of it is this:

“It is that look across the table when two people are sharing an unspoken but private moment. When each knows the other understands and is in agreement with what is being expressed. An expressive and meaningful silence.”

It’s not like I plan on using it directly in a book (but ya never know . . .). It’s sure to be used indirectly, though. Just reading the definition sets the scene up in my mind and the gears start turning.

  • The moment when he slips and tells her she’s amazing, or beautiful, and she realizes he’s looking at her with love in his eyes.
  • The moment she and he both realize that to truly follow her dream, her life can’t include him.
  • The moment they both acknowledge that their loved one can’t be saved until he hits rock-bottom and finally wants to save himself.

So the next time you’re hitting a wall, or pounding through that writer’s block, try Googling interesting or beautiful foreign words. You just never know where they’ll take you.

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