article "Lost in Translation: The world's most unique words?" (featuring the Inuit noun [sic] Iktsuarpok)

I mean, yeah, untranslatable words or whatever are annoying, but it really peeves me to see iktsuarpok on these lists..


n. The act of repeatedly going
outside to keep checking if
someone (anyone) is coming.

An Inuit noun, Iktsuarpok exists “somewhere between impatience and anticipation”. It sums up the “feeling that compels you to go outside and inside, and outside and then inside again, to check if someone is walking over the hill or around the corner”. As Sanders tells BBC Culture, “often these words give a name to feelings or actions that we already know and recognise. Then, someone from Brazil isn’t too different to someone from Sweden, who isn’t too different from us.”

Okay, so, the provenance of this word seems to come from Arthur Thibert's Eskimo (Inuktitut) Dictionary, on the Kivalliq and Aivilik dialects, originally published in 1954, but republished in 1997. Michael E. Krauss (1973) writes of this book:

Oblate missionaries are responsible for an enormous amount of the work on Canadian Eskimo linguistics since before the war, published and unpublished (see Duthilly 128, and Carriere 759, 760, 761, 762). Since 1941 the Oblate missionary head-quarters in Ottawa has been printing a periodical in syllabic (224), perhaps the first of its kind. Note another periodical from the Cambridge Bay mission since 1960 (432), and Fr. Schneider's from Ft. Chimo since 1962 (509), in syllabics, covering an amazingly broad and erudite range of topics. During the fifties the Oblates began to produce a large amount of linguistic literature, written in an alphabetic notation of varying quality, never entirely adequate, of very limited circulation, in manuscript, typescript or mimeo, but of very great lexicographic and dialectological value. Very notable contributions are by the Reverend Fathers Louis Lemer (280, 1951, Bathurst Inlet), Eugene Fafard (147, 1953, Chesterfield Inlet), and especially Maurice Metayer (395, 1953, Aklavik). All these materials are unpublished (to be found at the Oblate Archives in Ottawa), and were seen by Father Arthur Thibert, who consulted them but by no means exhausted them in compiling his English-Eskimo and Eskimo-English dictionary which he published first in 1954 (594, 598, also in French edition, 595; see also reviews by Swadesh, 562, and Menovscikov, 347), a very inadequate work in many respects, in spite of the pretentious claim (p. vii) that 'this dictionary covers practically all the words generally used by the Canadian Eskimo.'

Anyway, so Thibert's dictionary writes:

iktortok -- goes out to see if someone is coming.

iktsuarpok -- often goes out to see if someone is coming.

(nb that the latter word just has an additional morpheme)

The earliest (I might be wrong) list of "weird untranslatable words" with this word is from Adam Jacot de Boinot's book The Meaning of Tingo: and Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World which writes:

The frustration of waiting for someone to turn up is beautifully encapsulated in the Inuit word iktsuarpok 'to go outside often to see if someone is coming'.

And then MentalFloss ran an article citing this book. Its entry reads:

5. Iktsuarpok (Inuit)

You know that feeling of anticipation when you’re waiting for someone to show up at your house and you keep going outside to see if they’re there yet? This is the word for it.

This Mental Floss article I think is responsible for people thinking this clearly intransitive verb is a noun. From there on you get this illustrated list of 'untranslatable words' with the definition

"The feeling of anticipation that leads you to keep looking outside to see if anyone is coming"

And somehow or other we got another list of illustrated definitions to get to the one in this BBC article.

And also, the notion of "Inut" being a language is silly. I mean, yeah, it is Inuit, but there are many different Inuit languages/varieties. The Ulirnaisigutiit dialect has ᐃᑦᓱᐊᑐᖅ/itsuatuq, glossed as "try to see continuously"/"try to see often.". And the Kalaallisut word itsuarpoq means "looks for something (through a window/ice/the water/etc.)", "looks through a window".

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