Skip to content

Stealing words

The English language has a proud tradition of stealing words from other languages and dialects.  It’s this flexibility which has allowed it to become the lingua franca of the modern world.  That said, there are still many experiences which we don’t have a word for in English (including “the limitation of not having a word for something” unless you know different?).

I’ve just been reading ‘The Meaning of Tingo‘ by Adam Jacot de Boinod, which lists a whole host of words and expressions from around the globe which we just can’t express in English.  I’ve only just started it, but I thought I might pass on a few of my favourites so far, which I think we need to adopt immediately:

  • iktsuarpok: To go outside often to see if someone is coming  (Innuit)
  • puniu: The skull of a man who resembles a coconut (Hawaiian)
  • nylentik:  To flick someone with the middle finger on the ear (Indonesian)
  • tsuji-giri:  To try out a new sword on a passer-by (Japanese)
  • nakhur:  A camel which won’t give milk until her nostrils have been tickled (Persian)
  • nglayap:  To wander far from home with no particular purpose (Indonesian)
  • ichigo-ichie:  The practice of treasuring each moment and trying to make it perfect (Japanese)
  • achaplinarse:  To hesitate and then run away in the style of Charlie Chaplin (Spanish, C America)
  • giomlaireachd:  The habit of dropping in at meal times (Scottish Gaelic)

and finally, I guess it has to be

  • Tingo:  To borrow things from a friend’s house one by one until there’s nothing left.

Incidentally, I also notice from his book that 42 in Japanese (shi-ni) means to die.  Is that a rather morbid take on the meaning of life?


Posted in linguistics, reviews.

Tagged with , , , .

0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.