19 May 2014


One of my favourite words is saudade, a Portuguese word that has no direct translation in English. Saudade describes a longing for a lost person or place, often a past that never existed. Rooted in sadness, it's no surprise that saudade figures heavily in many Fado songs.

There are many words around the world with no equivalent in English and last year New Zealand graphic designer Anjana Iyer started a project, “Found in Translation,” in which she set out to illustrate 100 of these words from various languages (after a temporary halt at word 41, she says she will complete the project this year). 

The results so far are both colourful and informational. There’s ghiqq—Persian for "the sound made by a boiling kettle," iktsuarpok—an Inuit word that describes "the frustration of waiting for someone to turn up,” tsundoku—a very helpful Japanese word that means “the act of leaving a book unread after buying it typically piling it up together with other such unread books,” and the brilliant backpfeifengesicht,  German for “a face badly in need of a fist.” In fact, some of my favourite words in the project turned out to be German (who knew?) like waldeinsamkeit, which describes “the feeling of being alone in the woods.” 

I look forward to seeing more of these and hope that Iyer includes saudade as one of her 100 words. To see the rest of the illustrations, visit here.

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