Intercultural Word of the Week – Awumbuk

The description of the emptiness felt after visitors leave, a kind of foggy, muffled feeling.

Read on


“The indigenous Baining people who live in the mountains of Papua New Guinea are so familiar with this experience that they named it awumbuk.  They believe that departing visitors shed a kind of heaviness when they leave so that they may travel lightly.  This oppressive mist hovers for three days, creating a feeling of distraction and inertia and interfering with the ability to tend to their homes and crops.  So, once their guests have left, the Baining fill a bowl with water and leave it overnight to absorb the festering air.  The next day, the family rises ealy and ceremonially fling the water into the trees whereupon ordinary family life resumes.”

“The Book of Human Emotions” by Tiffany Watt Smith looks at how our emotions are shaped by language.  We have a feeling, but can we define that feeling without words?  Does a feeling even exist if we don’t have words to define it?  In her book, Watt Smith looks at languages around the world and highlights words that express feelings that don’t necessarily have a definition in English.