I am fond of words. an article I read yesterday incorporated the word “foofaraw” into its otherwise perfectly ordinary news prose, causing me endless delight. and occasionally I try to come up with some of my own, when english proves deficient (and it often does). but recently I’ve discovered some seriously spectacular words in other languages, which have no direct equivalent in english. here are some favourites, culled from various corners and comment forums on the internet. as far as possible I have tried to include only those that had been verified or were not being disputed.
TINGO (Pascuense language, Easter Island)
borrowing things from a friend’s house, one by one, until he has nothing left. this is splendid & something I must soon perform on one of my hapless friends, or perhaps the bodleian.
an act someone does for you that you didn’t want to have them do and in fact tried to discourage them from doing, but they went ahead anyway, determined to do you a favour, and then things went wrong and caused you a lot of trouble, but in the end social conventions required you to express gratitude. I LOVE this one.
CIGERIMIN KOSESINDEN (Turkish)
to love someone from the corner of one’s lung (presumably as opposed to from the bottom of one’s heart). there was some controversy about whether this was, in fact, “lung” or “liver” — any turkish speakers out there might drop me an email.
a camel that won’t give milk until her nostrils are tickled. I need desperately to know if this is true — not so much whether such a word exists as whether, in fact, such a camel does.
to flick someone’s ear with one’s middle finger. as far as I know the definition does not preclude the usage of other fingers.
the feigned anger of a mistress.
formally styling one’s hair for a coming-of-age ceremony, with the contrary effect of making oneself look worse than before. from the discussion of this word I gather it is a fairly outmoded expression — though certainly no less awesome for it.
someone who speaks rapidly in order to hide their meaning from one person while communicating it to another.
to exchange wives for a few days only. and is there a word for the fight that will ensue should one party decide they’d rather keep the new wife? imagine the entire lexicon of vocabulary that could arise around this practice!
the practice of two people sharing a bed before marriage, but with no possibility of intimacy due to various obstacles such as a bolster down the middle of the bed, wearing full clothing, being sewn into a bag etc.
O KA LA NOKONOKO (Hawaiian)
a day spent in nervous anticipation of a coughing spell.
to skip stones! more accurately: to play ducks and drakes, i.e. skip stones.
MAMIHLAPINATAPEI (Fuengian language, Chile)
a shared look of desire or longing between parties who are both interested, but neither is willing to make the first move.