Ever since I discovered that the Germans actually have a word for the pleasure derived from the misfortune of others, I have oft wondered what other linguistic gems lay buried in strange foreign tongues around the world-gems that have no English equivalent whatsoever.
British author Adam Jacot de Boinod apparently developed the same interest after discovering that the Albanians have 27 words for moustache. The difference between he and I, however, is that he passionately pursued this subject until he acquired enough strange words to build a book around. The result is The Meaning of Tingo.
This is not another book about how the Eskimos have 12 billion words for snow. It instead focuses on unique words such as the title’s namesake, Tingo, which is Pascuense (Easter Island) for “borrowing things from a friend’s house, one by one, until there’s nothing left.”
Although the book will not be available in the United States for a few more weeks, a recent article in the Smithsonian gives a good idea of what to expect. Once I get my hands on a copy I’ll follow up with a review, but until then, you’ll have to settle for a few of my favorites from the Smithsonian article. Be sure to learn them well; they’ll certainly aid in meeting new friends and making a good impression while traveling abroad.
Areodjarekput – Inuit – “to exchange wives for a few days only”
Vaseliner – French – “to apply Vaseline”
Nedovtipa – Czech – “someone who finds it difficult to take a hint”
Kummerspeck – German – “the excess weight one gains from emotion-related overeating”
Backpfeifengesicht – German – “face that cries out for a fist in it”
Man, you just got to love those Germans.