Jugaad: An untranslatable word for winging it

Let our claymation tutorial expand your vocabulary with a word that appears in Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi but describes something English speakers know very well.

You know that feeling when you improvise something in a pinch but may seem unusual to an outside observer? Well, turban-wearing Punjabi men who are driving a motorcycle and want to use their mobile came up with a clever solution: they put the phone in their turban, so they can talk hands-free.

That idea of patching something together in a very makeshift way to get a result you want is common in India. And there’s one word in Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi that sums it up: jugaad.

“Say you’re given a task but you don’t have the skills to accomplish it”, says student Anushree Sreedhar of the meaning of jugaad. “You just create something to kind of fulfill your needs for the moment.”

What’s the best real-life instance of jugaad anyone’s ever seen? For Karanjit Singh it was someone who had taken a broken clock – half the clock face was missing – and instead of fixing it or replacing it merely wrote the numbers of the hours with a marker on the wall so the clock hands would still point where they were supposed to.

Ultimately there’s no real word in English that captures the essence of jugaad. To learn more about this indelible word click on the latest video in BBC Culture’s Untranslatable Words series above.

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