Got a problem? Use ‘jugaad.’

Jugaad is a Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi word for 'thinking outside the box' to find innovative, low-cost solutions to problems.

Zack Wajsgras/The Daily Progress/AP
A puppy plays at the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA on Oct. 12 in Charlottesville, Va.

Last week we talked about some words from foreign languages that would be useful to have in English, too. We only scratched the surface of this rich topic, though, so here are a few more.

Jugaad is a Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi word for “thinking outside the box” to find innovative, low-cost solutions to problems. It is similar to slang words “hack” (to improvise a solution) and “kludge” (an inelegant and inefficient solution that nevertheless works, at least for a while), but jugaad is more of a philosophy, a way of looking at the world. Angus MacGyver, who could make practically anything out of duct tape and a Swiss army knife, was an early television pioneer of jugaad.

A jeitinho is also a creative solution, but one that demands a flexible moral stance, since the problem at hand is often a troublesome rule, regulation, or social norm. This Brazilian Portuguese word means “a little way around something” and can refer to everything from a relatively harmless ploy to jump a waiting line – borrowing a friend’s baby to be pulled to the front – to bribing politicians or setting up shell companies to avoid taxes. 

Though jeitinhos may be more morally dubious, they are motivated by the same spirit as jugaad, finding innovative ways to accomplish things with limited resources.

It often takes me a few seconds to remember a person’s name when I meet someone unexpectedly or if I have to introduce him or her to someone else. In the Scots language, this hesitation is called a tartle. (Scots is sometimes considered to be a separate language and sometimes a dialect of English.) 

As far as I know there is no word for being unable to recall a name at all and being forced to greet an acquaintance with “Hey, you!” Perhaps we should extend the meaning of tartle to cover these cases, when memory brings the name up far too late.

Most of us have probably met someone who is “persnickety, careful, a rule follower, cautious, attentive to small details.” I am that person, as are many word lovers, at least some of the time. The Monitor’s books editor, Marjorie Kehe, points out that Italian has an adjective that sums up all these qualities in one: pignolo.

Finally, Tagalog has a word that means “feeling overwhelmed by an emotion, to the point that you want to do something physical about it.” Sometimes this gigil comes from anger and expresses itself as a desire to punch someone. More often, though, it is a positive word, referring to feeling overwhelmed by cuteness. 

When you see a baby so adorable that you want to pinch its cheek, or a puppy so small and fuzzy that you have an irresistible urge to pick it up, that’s gigil at its best.

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