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Off topic: Tingo, nakkele and other wonders! (BBC article)
Thread poster: Sheila Hardie

Sheila Hardie  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:11
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Catalan to English
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Sep 26, 2005

Hi everyone,

I just came across this article on the BBC news website. I thought it might interest some of you!


Tingo, nakkele and other wonders
By Georgina Pattinson
BBC News

Who could resist eating every last bit of curry?
English is a rich and innovative language. But you can't help feeling we're missing out.

While English speakers have to describe the action of laughing so much that one side of your abdomen hurts (hardly an economical phrase), the Japanese have the much more efficient expression: katahara itai.

Of course, the English language has borrowed words for centuries. Khaki and croissant are cases in point.

So perhaps it's time to be thinking about adding others to the lexicon. Malay, for instance, has gigi rongak - the space between the teeth. The Japanese have bakku-shan - a girl who appears pretty from behind but not from the front. Then there's a nakkele - a man who licks whatever the food has been served on (from Tulu, India).

I'm trying to celebrate the joy of foreign words
Adam Jacot de Boinod
These fabulous examples have been collected by author Adam Jacot de Boinod into The Meaning Of Tingo - a collection of words and phrases from around the world.

"What I'm really trying to do is celebrate the joy of foreign words (in a totally unjudgmental 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.

Having pored over 280 dictionaries and trawled 140 websites, he is also convinced that a country's dictionary says more about a culture than a guide book. Hawaiians, for instance, have 108 words for sweet potato, 65 for fishing nets - and 47 for banana.


The German propensity for compound words pays dividends. Kummerspeck is a German word which literally means grief bacon: it is the word that describes the excess weight gained from emotion-related overeating.

A Putzfimmel is a mania for cleaning and Drachenfutter - literally translated as dragon fodder - are the peace offerings made by guilty husbands to their wives.

Or there's die beleidigte Leberwurst spielen - to stick one's lower lip out in a sulk (literally, to play the insulted liver sausage). Perhaps it's a Backpfeifengesicht - a face that cries out for a fist in it.

Words and phrases can suggest the character of a nation.

A boy braces himself against the wind at Fort Walton Beach, Florida
The Dutch didn't have hurricanes in mind when they coined the word

The Dutch vocabulary, for instance, seems to confirm the nation's light-hearted reputation. The word uitwaaien is Dutch for walking in windy weather for fun.

The Maori-speakers of the Cook Islands sound like an enthusiastic bunch: the word toto is the shout given in a game of hide-and-seek to show readiness.

Perhaps the Inuit notion of a good time must be, of necessity, a little more constrained. The long winter nights must fly by as they play a game called igunaujannguaq, literally meaning frozen walrus carcass. (The game involves the person in the centre of a ring trying to remain stiff as he is passed around the ring, hand over hand.)

But it's those fun-loving people in the Netherlands who should have the last word - the phrase for skimming stones is as light-hearted as the action: plimpplampplettere.

Overall Grand Champion Karl Heinz Hille of Berlin, Germany

World beard champion 2003
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The Albanians exhibit a strange fascination for facial hair. There are no fewer than 27 separate expressions for the moustache.

Madh means a bushy moustache, posht is a moustache hanging down at the ends and fshes is a long broom-like moustache with bristly hairs.

This hirsute obsession is not confined to moustaches. Vetullkalem describes pencil-thin eyebrows, vetullperpjekur are joined together eyebrows and those arched like the crescent moon are vetullhen.

Perhaps nothing so intriguingly displays differences between nations as the unusual occupations of some of its citizens. Geshtenjapjeks is an Albanian who sells roast chestnuts on the street. A koshatnik in Russian is a dealer of stolen cats.

A kualanapuhi is a Hawaiian officer who keeps the flies away from the sleeping king by waving a brush made of feathers. In Turkey a cigerci is a seller of liver and lungs and the Danish have a fyrassistent - an assistant lighthouse keeper.

And Spanish speakers in central America have a description of a government employee who only shows up on payday - an aviador.

Which brings us back to de Boinod's title: tingo is an invaluable word from the Pascuense language of Easter Island meaning "to borrow objects from a friend's house, one by one, until there's nothing left".

The Meaning of Tingo by Adam Jacot de Boinod is published by Penguin.

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Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:11
Member (2002)
Italian to English
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Great reading! Sep 26, 2005

Thanks for the article! Plimpplampplettere is one of my favorite pastimes, of course

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Local time: 02:11
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Moderator of this forum
Thanks so much! Sep 26, 2005

I never tire of reading these articles.

Now to answer the timeless question: How many words do the Eskimo have for 'snow' ?



[Edited at 2005-09-26 18:33]

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Kathinka van de Griendt  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:11
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German to English
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Great! Sep 27, 2005

Sheila Hardie wrote:

But it's those fun-loving people in the Netherlands who should have the last word - the phrase for skimming stones is as light-hearted as the action: plimpplampplettere.

My one favourite is "hartstikkeknotsknettergek" for someone REALLY crazy

Thanks for a great read!!!!

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Lakshmi Iyer  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:11
Italian to English
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The Meaning of Liff Sep 27, 2005

Excellent read: thanks!

This reminded me of "The Meaning of Liff" by Douglas Adams ("The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" and other assorted works of sheer genuis) and John Lloyd.

It's a "dictionary" of place names used to describe situations for which there aren't any words (in English at any rate). NOT suitable for reading on public transport.

Here are a few - non-copyright-infringing I hope - examples to give you a general idea.


A remote acquaintance passed off as 'a very good friend of mine' by someone tring to impress people.


Adjective which describes the behaviour of Sellotape when you are tired.


The optimum vantage point from which one to view people undressing in the bedroom across the street.


The massive three-course midmorning blow-out enjoyed by a dieter who has already done his or her slimming duty by having a teaspoonful of cottage cheese for breakfast.


One of those brown plastic trays with bumps on, placed upside down in boxes of chocolates to make you think you're getting two layers.


The sound made by a liftful of people all tring to breathe politely through their noses.


The moment at which two people approaching from opposite ends of a long passageway recognise each other and immediately pretend they haven't. This is to avoid the ghastly embarrassment of having to continue recognising each other the whole length of the corridor.


Sudden realisation, as you lie in bed waiting for the alarm to go off, that it should have gone off an hour ago.


The feeling you get about four o'clock in the afternoon when you haven't got enough done.

IPPING (participial vb.)

The fish-like opening and closing of the jaws seen amongst people who have recently been to the dentist and are puzzled as to whether their teeth have been put back the right way up.


The ancient Eastern art of being able to fold road-maps properly.

TIMBLE (vb.)

(Of small nasty children.) To fall over very gently, look around to see who's about, and then yell blue murder.

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Sheila Hardie  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:11
Partial member
Catalan to English
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Thanks! Sep 27, 2005

Thanks for the links to the sites on the Eskimo words for snow, Nancy - and for the "Meaning of Liff" list, Kaveri! Great fun!


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Elizabeth Sumner
Local time: 07:11
Russian to English
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The ruder side of the meaning of liff! Sep 30, 2005

Hi Sheila,

I heard the article on Radio 4, 'tingo' has to be one of the best. However, when you think about it some of these words do have English equivalents. One of my favourites is the English version of bakku-shan (a girl who appears pretty from behind but not from the front) - a Bobfoc (body off Baywatch, face off Crimewatch). Apologies for anyone easily offended, I think it first appeared in Viz's Profanosaurus. Not a dictionary for the faint-hearted but sometimes very funny.


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Tingo, nakkele and other wonders! (BBC article)

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