Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Words Can't Express...

I picked up a book a couple of years ago when I was spending a B&N gift card called The Meaning of Tingo by Adam Jacot de Boinod.  I had about $4.00 left on the card, so I grabbed it because it was $3.99.  Best B&N impulse buy ever (and I’ve had a lot of them!).  The book is basically a list of quirky words in languages from all over the world.  Here are some of my favorites (I’m not going to mess around with accents, so my apologies to any native speakers.):
mokita (Kiriwana, Papua New Guinea): the truth that all know but no one talks about
sahaba bi-wajhi (Arabic): to begin the day by seeing someone’s face
Backpfeifengesicht (German): a face that cries out for a fist in it
puccekuli (Tulu, India): a tooth growing after the eightieth year
o ka la nokonoko (Hawaiian): a day spent in nervous anticipation of a coughing spell
teklak-tekluk (Indonesian): the head bobbing up and down with drowsiness
cooperar (Spanish, Central America): to go along willingly with someone else to one’s own disadvantage
yi luan tou shi (Chinese): courting disaster by immoderately overestimating one’s own strength (literally, to throw an egg against a rock)
Scheissenbedauern (German): the disappointment one feels when something turns out not nearly as badly as one had hoped
So, I could literally go on and on and on and on with these words.  People always say that English is one of the hardest languages to learn, but look at all those words for such specific things.  English has over a quarter of a million words, yet it’s still inadequate in certain situations.
For instance, what do you call the noise that is emitted when a guitarist slides his fingers down the strings?  You know, that streaky squeal of a noise that sends shivers up my spine and turns me to mush. (For a perfect example, listen to Fistful of Mercy’s “30 Bones.”  It’s like Ben Harper is stroking from my neck to the small of my back over and over.  Like WHOA.)
What do you call the feeling when you really like that someone is in love with you when you’re not really into him/her?  Or what do you call that feeling in reverse?
What do you call the little point of skin right in the middle of the bottom side of the upper lip?
How about an odor that you smell occasionally for which you can find no source?
Is there a word for the lies parents tell their children to avoid giving clues about Christmas presents?  (I know we have “white lies,” but I’m talking lies specific to Christmas--there should be a word for those!)
What about when you’re friends with a couple and you only like one person in the couple?  Shouldn’t there be a word for the person you like and one for the person you don’t?
If anyone knows words for these things, please fill me in.  Otherwise, let’s work on some neologisms and see how fast we can get them into the dictionary.  I mean, bootylicious made it, so why can’t our words, right?
Oh, and by the way, “tingo” is a Pascuense (Easter Islands) word meaning to take all the objects one desires from the house of a friend, one at a time, by borrowing them.


  1. I almost ALWAYS only like one person in the couple. There was a King of Queens episode about this. HA! Yes, there should be words for these things!

  2. The one way my family can tell when I am really mad is when I start talking in Afrikaans, there are just some words that really are so powerful just by saying them out loud will make them start walking backwards out of the room. ;)

  3. I LOVE this post! And I totally want to name that stuff. Let's start w/ the half couple because that's the most commonly referred to. Uh. I wanted to give some options, but I'm at a loss. Get to it!