Over 1,000 linguists have all agreed that the Congo/Bantu word “ilunga” is one of the hardest words to translate – if at all. Since 2004, people have attempted to convey this word’s meaning. The only way they have is through comparison with baseball’s principle of “three strikes and you’re out.” Essentially this word (roughly) translates to that which one may no longer tolerate after the gradual wearing down of emotion in the complex, gray areas of life that are neither black nor white in terms of emotion, thought, feeling, and action. Many insist the direct translation is the often slow but steady progression of when “a person readily forgives an abuse after the first offense, tolerates the second, but is not able to forgive after the third.” In love, marriages, and other relationships, it often describes that heartfelt acceptance of imperfections in another until one reaches the “when point.”
What is ilunga?
Ilunga is a word that hails from the Congo, and generally refers to the basic human trait of limited tolerance for bad situations. Some linguists compare it to baseball’s principle of “three strikes and you’re out.” In other words, one transgression is forgiveable, the second transgression can be tolerated, but the third transgression is unforgiveable and cannot be tolerated a fourth time.