When Words Fail Us

English Dictionaries. Photo by John Keogh on Flickr. CC BY-NC-2.0

Sometimes there’s something we want to express, but we can’t seem to find the right term for it. There’s a feeling or situation that we just can’t put into words. Or maybe the precise word doesn’t even exist in English.

On occasion we have to turn to words and phrases in other languages to describe exactly what we’re trying to say. For instance, in English we often borrow the German word “schadenfreude,” which means “pleasure at the misfortune of others”.

Maybe we should consider borrowing a few more foreign words that have no English equivalent. I suggest the following:

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Turkey Hotline

Impending disaster! Photo by Matt Shalvatis on Flickr
CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

For over 30 years now, the Butterball company has hosted a hotline for those encountering problems or questions when cooking their Thanksgiving or Christmas turkeys.

The experts at their turkey talk-line answer calls from over 100,000 people per year, desperate cooks mystified by the process of roasting a turkey and needing advice. Usually, the caller is unsure how to thaw the turkey, or how to calculate the cooking time.

Sometimes, however, the problems are a bit more complicated…not to mention hilarious.

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Feline Prison Break

Photo by Mark Turnauckas on Flickr CC BY 2.0

Did you hear about the “prison break” at a Houston, Texas animal shelter recently?

A cunning criminal had been opening the heavy door of the senior cats’ enclosure for several nights in a row, setting the captives free to roam the shelter. Each morning, workers at the Friends for Life Animal Rescue would arrive to find the door mysteriously opened, and would have to wrangle the 15 cats back into their room.

The staff were stumped at who could be responsible for the feline jail break. It was only when they looked at footage from the building’s security cameras that they were able to crack the case.

The identity of the culprit came as a shock.

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