I know this is extremely convoluted but it has been bugging me all night. I remember learning of the word (or phrase) in something similar to a "Word porn" post. I remember it was a very strange looking word, like it wasn't even English.

All I have found so far is "Alexithymia" but that seems to pertain to a metal disorder. I am looking for the general inability to explain thoughts or ideas due to the other person having to figure out what you mean based on what you say. There's a disconnect between what you feel you are saying and what they feel you are saying. I am specifically looking for a word for that disconnect.

  • Dysgraphia. Inability to write coherently, as a symptom of brain disease or damage. Is this the one?
    – Joe Dark
    Oct 6, 2015 at 9:27
  • Could you clarify further, maybe with an example?
    – Maverick
    Oct 7, 2015 at 14:42
  • I remember experiencing this a while ago when I was having a deep conversation about existance, god, and the universe. I quickly found out that we would agree on a lot of things it was just the way we worded it that created confusion and in some cases conflict. I remember reading about a word for that disconnect of language and what you are meaning to say. I don't really know how else to describe it. Oct 9, 2015 at 4:34
  • "Discordant speech" ?
    – Graffito
    Oct 16, 2015 at 23:54
  • Damned if I know, but your question is a perfect example of it, whatever it is!
    – Drew
    Oct 17, 2015 at 0:16

7 Answers 7


The term you're referencing is known as, "Qualia".

E.G. trying to explain the sunset to a blind man. -or- Trying to describe Mozart to the deaf.

The ideas and experiences of those are what can be refereed to as Qualia, and the, "Explanatory Gap".

Below I added an opening of the Wiki entry on this. However, there's a channel called VSauce which has a video talking about this at length, and in-depth -- and does so much, much better (and in a more profound way).

The video's called, "Is Your Red The Same as My Red?"

In philosophy, qualia (/ˈkwɑːliə/ or /ˈkweɪliə/; singular form: quale) are individual instances of subjective, conscious experience. The term "qualia" derives from the Latin neuter plural form (qualia) of the Latin adjective quālis (Latin pronunciation: [ˈkwaːlis]) meaning "of what sort" or "of what kind"). Examples of qualia include the pain of a headache, the taste of wine, or the perceived redness of an evening sky.

Daniel Dennett (b. 1942), American philosopher and cognitive scientist, regards qualia as "an unfamiliar term for something that could not be more familiar to each of us: the ways things seem to us".1

Erwin Schrödinger (1887–1961), the famous physicist, had this counter-materialist take:

The sensation of color cannot be accounted for by the physicist's objective picture of light-waves. Could the physiologist account for

it, if he had fuller knowledge than he has of the processes in the retina and the nervous processes set up by them in the optical nerve bundles and in the brain? I do not think so.[2]

Much of the debate over their importance hinges on the definition of the term, and various philosophers emphasize or deny the existence of certain features of qualia. As such, the nature and existence of qualia remain controversial.


There's something funny to me about desperately searching for this word, given the context. OK - Enough rigmarole.

I can talk around the word, and maybe this will help us find it. I thought about "empathic unsettlement," even though most times this is used in trauma theory. I'll keep looking, but it might be hiding in literary theory searches on topics like structuralism. This takes into account the difference between the signifier and the signified (word and content, simply put), but I think the word you're looking for would have to relate to sociology or psychology as well. It's surprising this isn't easier...

In the meantime, Alasdair Gray says: “I distrust speech therapy. Words are the language of lies and evasions"

  • Yeah it is definitely a psychological word. It isn't a temporary ailment or hiccup in cognitive thought. It is the actual struggle to convey a thought or intangible idea. I found this feeling/emotion to present itself more while delving into very deep conversation. Where the subject matter can be taken wildly different if received the wrong way. Oct 9, 2015 at 4:39

Check this for Reference : http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/inarticulate

disdain - consider to be unworthy of one's consideration.

miscommunication- When a person's feeling got misunderstood by the other person.

(close one but not exact)Reticent - not revealing one's thoughts or feelings readily.(reserved,introvert)

  • I don't think it is this. A person CAN BE inarticulate, but this is a word for the every day struggle of trying to convey your thoughts and ideas through words which in reality have a limitation within themselves. We have to trust the other person to understand what we mean, in which case, there will always be some details or quirks of the idea that are lost in translation. Oct 9, 2015 at 4:36
  • @DeliriouslyFunkyPriest Not sure if I am clear enough with the explaination, but check the updated answer..might help! Oct 9, 2015 at 4:46

Ineffability is hard to describe. The idea of an idea being on the tip of your tongue is on the tip of your tongue. Aphasia makes things even more difficult to speak of. Sometimes the words come okay, but you still talk past each other. Other times the dissonance comes from a disconnect with oneself.

I like to think of these sorts of phenomena, among others, as examples of the symbol grounding problem. None of them seem to be a single-word solution to your problem, but maybe they’ll lead you closer.

  • It is definitely a complicated concept. It wouldn't surprise me if the word I saw was an Icelandic or German word. It's very possible english doesn't have a word for it. As I said, it was an online post. It might not even be a real word in any language! I was just hoping there was a word for it because it's a very interesting idea to me. The literal limitation of our only means of communication between each other. It's a little disappointing that this limitation exists but interesting nonetheless. Oct 11, 2015 at 3:29

You need a word that literally means "Has no lexical expression possible"? Language developed not to discuss imaginary theoretical or emotional things, but it is used for these aspects too. It first was a tool and a simple way to say "food. Where food." "Tiger". Words have come to their point of being not developed as quickly as our complex mentality has, as well as the complexity of human reality and experience demanding us to be able to explain anything.


To quote from the 'post' what is relevant: "general inability to explain thought or ideas [...] a disconnect between" the speaker and the person spoken to.

Yes, what I like to put forth as a prospective candidate is an English word -very much common but candid enough to hold all the ideas of duskiness or obscurity crammed into it.

It is the antonym of ELOQUENT. In its positive sense, it goes to mean 'effective in expressing meaning by speech'. I am at my Wit's end to explain how forceful it can be as an adjective! I can still remember, how, taking the cue from our English professor, we, in our youthful days, went on searching "eloquent eyes"- eyes that speak; as of now, the search is not over! Perhaps, it will not be over ever.

So the word is "INELOQUENT" or its noun form, "INELOQUENCE"


I found this word on Better Than English Fremdscham (German)

Embarrassment felt on behalf of someone else (often someone so ignorant to what they have done that they don’t know that they should be embarrassed for themselves); vicarious embarrassment

was the closest i could find

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