Mamihlapinatapai – A book title and story idea all rolled into one.

Longing.jpgFrom Wikipedia (via kottke), mamihlapinatapai is a word from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego, listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the “most succinct word”, considered one of the hardest words to translate. It describes a look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that both desire but which neither one wants to start. This could perhaps be translated more succinctly as “eye-contact implying ‘after you…‘”.
A more literal approximation is “ending up mutually at a loss as to what to do about each other”.

One Reply to “Mamihlapinatapai – A book title and story idea all rolled into one.”

  1. Given the living conditions of the Yaghi’s low end stone age society, horrible Tierra del Fuego weather — which they were apparently indifferent to — and so on, I imaging that a lack of conversational starters was endemic.

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