No word for X

L has no word for X

A related topic, mostly not covered here: lexical gaps, including lexical underdifferentiation (English cousin, no separate simple words for ‘female cousin’ and ‘male cousin’), lexical overdifferentiation (English niece and nephew, no simple word for the two of them taken together)

Important background:
AZ, 12/2/06: Does anyone have a word for this? Probably not.:
“I argue that a useful interpretation of word for X in language L is something like ‘ordinary-language fixed expression of some currency’ (olfesc)”

The no word for X meme is the flip side of the many words for X meme (the Eskimo vocabulary meme)

4/25/12: No word for hot flashes in Japanese?:
“No words for X” on Language Log. The “no words for X” meme (which takes several different forms) has been a preoccupation of the Language Loggers for years. The most recent posting is from March 4th: Mark Liberman on Jerome Kagan on personality words in English vs. Japanese. (Japanese comes up frequently in these discussions; it’s both familiar and exotic.)
Mark posted an archive of LLog postings on the meme in 2009, and has recently updated it through January 2nd of this year [2012]. Available here, it’s an impressively long list:

ML, 1/28/09: ‘No word for X’ archive:″
(in reverse chronological order, with some addenda through 2015)

Some other postings on LLog:

ML, 1/9/12: Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt:

Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt

no word for yearning in French?

ML, 1/15/12: Finnish language flowers and Finnish accountability:

ML, 3/7/12: No Arabic word for bluff?

ML, 4/4/12: Context:


Kagan on personality words in English vs. Japanese

ML, 1/14/13: Wade Davis has no word for “dubious linguistic claim”:

Wade Davis has no word for “dubious linguistic claim”

ML, 11/25/14: No word for fetch:

No word for fetch

Drew Dernavich cartoon

Postings on this blog are listed separately below.

2/2/11: No word for X:
on “original meanings”; on gay for pay etc.

3/18/11: Thingy words:
“stand-in expressions, serving as place-holders for a nominal expression not available to you, either because you can’t recall it or because you never knew it or because there is in fact no common widely available expression for the referent (that is, because there is “no word for it”)”

6/9/12: No word, no concept, no experience:
no word for ‘aesthetics’

3/7/13: twangs:
“[word for] a variety notably different in phonology from your own. Well, ordinary English has no word for this, and in fact there’s no standard linguistic term either.”

10/18/14: No word for it: erectioned:

11/17/14: widows and widowers
no olfesc covering the two together

1/16/15: Indian:
no word meaning ‘inhabitant of the Western Hemisphere’

1/19/15: “Has no name in Creole”:

10/5/16: Unfetching cats:
no word for ‘fetch’ in Cat

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