Lifelong friend Liz Razovich sent me a list of words culled from a book that I ordered for myself: The Meaning of Tingo, by Adam Jacot de Boinod.
Here’s a sample:
Tingo: A Pascuense language word from Easter Island that means borrowing items from a pal’s house, one by one, until there is nothing left.
Kummerspeck: a German word that literally means “grief bacon” but refers to the excess weight gained from emotion-related overeating.
Bakku-shan: Japanese for a woman who “seems pretty when seen from behind but not from the front.”
Ulykkesbilen: Danish for an “ill-fated car.”
Nakkele: From Tulu, India, this describes a man who licks whatever the food has been served on.
Drachenfutter: A German word that is “dragon fodder” when translated literally, but means the peace offerings made by guilty husbands to their wives.
Backpfeifengesicht: German for a face that cries out for a fist in it.
Jacot de Boinod perused over 280 dictionaries and trawled 140 websites to prepare the book. “What I’m really trying to do is celebrate the joy of foreign words (in a totally nonjudgmental way) and say that while English is a great language, one shouldn’t be surprised there are many others having, as they do, words with no English equivalent,” he says.
Some of the reviews of the book on Amazon are a bit harsh, accusing him of a “casual” approach to the translations and research. But Jacot de Boinod hasn’t lost any time creating an entire franchise around this one idea. Hey, all the more power to him. The book is fun, and I’m always on the look out for that.
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