Drabble 60 – Mamihlapinatapai

Drabble 60 – Mamihlapinatapai

Veda Wildfire

It’s difficult to look at our own language as an outsider would, but it always seems like other languages have so many more specific words than English. We have kind of an obsession with them–you’ll find entire blogs consisting of these words, all of which express emotions we don’t have words for. They’re great fodder for drabbles, in fact.

Does that mean that other languages value these emotions more, to assign them their own word? Is English lacking, or are these emotions we deliberately don’t name? Can we accurately capture the specific feeling these words evoke in translation, or are we doomed to always be shy of the mark?

I have exactly zero answers, but I do have a lot of emotions I don’t quite have names for. That searing mixture of hope and determination I get right in the center of my chest. Sadness and regret and heaviness beating at the back of my knees. Needle-like fear prickling up and down my skin. Of course, none of those capture the entirety of the emotion–each one is tied to something specific, something unnameable, at least so far in life. Instead of giving it a name, I try to capture it in other ways.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.


(Noun: Yaghan ma- (reflexive/passive prefix) + ihlapi (“to be at a loss as what to do next”) + suffixes that make ma- reciprocal)

A look shared between two people, each wanting the other to initiate something.

Lara’s palms sweat as she circles her opponent, her naked sword gripped tight in her hand. She doesn’t want to be nervous but she can’t very well help it now; there’s a crowd gathered and Briana’s watching and she regrets everything.

He looks her up and down with a lascivious look in his eye, meeting her gaze and drawing his tongue around his lips in a way that makes her vision nearly go white with anger. She twitches, but doesn’t strike, and they continue to circle one another in the heat.

Lara can wait a long time. She strikes true.

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