A story from an anthology, a list of untranslatable terms, possibly written by a female writer... I think one of the terms was "laha sihp", defined as "the first breath of fresh air taken after working all day at one's desk" - I think one of the other terms was "bag rack" but I can't recall the definition.

It was in an anthology from I think the late '60s - possibly a "best of the year" anthology.


1 Answer 1


"Confluence", a short story by Brian Aldiss which was also the answer to the question Scifi short story that is only dictionary entries, including a word for eating maternal grandmothers. It was first published in Punch, August 30, 1967. You may have read it in one of these compilations, most likely in Judith Merril's 1968 anthology SF 12 (a.k.a. The Best of Sci-Fi 12) which can be borrowed (for free but registration required) from the Internet Archive, or perhaps in Aldiss's 1970 collection The Moment of Eclipse, also available for borrowing from the Internet Archive. Both "Confluence" and its sequel "Confluence Revisited" can be found in his 1993 collection A Tupolev Too Far and Other Stories, also available from the Internet Archive.

ISFDB synopsis:

A report on the subtleties of the 11 million year old language of an alien race, with a list of words and their meanings.


As has already been established, the superior Myrinian culture, the so-called Confluence of Headwaters, is somewhere in the region of eleven million (Earth) years old, and its language, Confluence, had been established even longer. The etymological team of the Seventh Research Fleet was privileged to sit at the feet of two gentlemen of Oeldrid Stance Academy. They found that Confluence is a language-cum-posture, and that meanings of words can be radically modified or altered entirely by the stance assumed by the speaker. There is, therefore, no possibility of ever compiling a one-to-one dictionary of English-Confluence, Confluence-English words.

Nevertheless, the list of Confluent words that follows disregards the stances involved, which number almost nine thousand and are all named, and merely offers a few definitions, some of which must be regarded as tentative.

BAGI RACK: Apologizing as a form of attack; a stick resembling a gun

BAG RACK: Needless and offensive apologies

LAHAH SHIP: Taking fresh air after one has worked several hours at one's desk

YATUZ PATI (Obs.): The ceremony of eating one’s maternal grandfather

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.