is there a word for “a supremely splendid word”?

[crossposted out of sheer coolness]

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.

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.

NAKHUR (Persian)
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.

NYLENTIK (Indonesian)
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.

AGE-OTORI (Japanese)
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.

A’AMA (Hawaiian)
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.

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.


11 responses to “is there a word for “a supremely splendid word”?

  • Kyle

    “Plimpplamppletteren” is fabulously onomatopoetic.

  • flory

    imagine britney singing, “from the bottom of my broken luuung….”, or the beegees crooning, “please help me mend my broken lung and let me live again…”

    but i digress.

    referring to the comfort women post of eons ago, sometimes they stood and watched and laughed.

    if you haven’t seen that already.

  • Dave

    Howard Rheingold published a great book in 1988 along the same lines.

    They Have A Word For It: A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words and phrases

  • totaltransformation

    I love learning new words. Thanks for sharing some words I might not have come across otherwise.

    What is your academic specialty? I am a historian of the ante bellum American South and African American history (slavery to be exact). 🙂

    Great blog.

  • Jason

    *points totaltransformation to for answer to his question*

  • em


    These are really interesting! I will definitely share these with my husband who always says ‘he’s a practicing pedant’ and can remember just about every weird word he ever came across – that’s very useful as he’s an attorney.

    It will be nice to have a few he’s probably not seen.

    AREODJAREKPUT – This one I find really confusing on a sociological basis. With relatively small communities of Inuits, I would have thought it important to know lineage, and then go to ‘other groups’ to intermarry … maybe they still did. This ‘behavior’ would not preclude that and it seems mental health may have been more important – a little ‘fun’ on those cold, 6 month nights!

    Best to all,
    PS Please come visit my blog …
    “Everyone knows someone who needs this information!” (TM)

  • tazer54

    ahaha. totally dugg.

    My contribution: Neko-neko is Indonesian for ‘one who has a creative idea that only makes things worse’.

  • rAchel

    @tazer54: thank you for both of those 🙂

    @kyle: I actually think o ka la nokonoko is vaguely onomatopoeic too (“nokonoko” strikes me as particularly coughable)

  • Peggy

    Cool list. Thanks for sharing this!

  • inaesb

    Haha..that’s a great list to have. Totally made my day.

  • RaiulBaztepo

    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

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