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27th November, 2017

5 beautiful (but untranslatable) Japanese words | The Giles Agency

We love the beauty and intricacies of language, and are thrilled when we come across someone who evidently feels the same. This week we’re highlighting a project by Illustrator Anjana Iyer, who took on a true challenge when she decided to illustrate a different ‘untranslatable’ word each day for 100 days.

[It was] “a personal project where I aimed to illustrate words found in foreign languages that can’t be Anglicised word for word,” she explains on her behance site. “All the words were found in books by Adam Jacot de Boinod—the author of The Meaning of Tingo: and Other Extraordinary Words from around the World, and creator of a quiz app about unusual words (Tingo).”

Here are our favourite 5 Japanese words from Anjana’s project. While the meaning of each can be roughly translated, the essence and beauty of the word is somewhat lost in the process.

Age-otori
Meaning: To look worse after a haircut.

Tsundoku
Meaning: The act of leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piling it up together with other such unread books.

Wabi-Sabi
Meaning: Accepting the natural cycle of growth and decay.

Aware
Meaning: The bittersweetness of a brief and fading moment of transcendent beauty.

Komorebi
Meaning: The sort of scattered, dappled light effect that happens when sunlight shines through trees.

All credit for the wonderful images and word choices to illustrator Anjana Iyer.

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