My Wednesday posts are now devoted to all things wordy - grammar, etymology, writing, the works.
If it involves language, I'll be talking about it here.
In addition to being smitten with the English language and all of its quirks, I'm always curious to learn more about other languages, too. My current fixation is on foreign words that have no English equivalent, or what I like to call "the untranslatables."
There's no better place to start researching this topic than with Adam Jacot de Boinod's book The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World. Whereas my interest in these words might be considered a passing fancy, de Boinod's could be labeled an obsession.
De Boinod says that his interest in foreign words was first triggered when he was working as a researcher for the BBC program QI. He consulted an Albanian dictionary and discovered no fewer than 27 words for types of eyebrow and the same number for mustache styles. His curiosity was piqued, and after years of exhaustive research, he has now published three books on the subject of words.
And now for a sampling of some of my favourite words from The Meaning of Tingo:
- neko-neko: Indonesian for "one who has a creative idea that only makes things worse."
- cabeca d'alho xoxo - Portugese for "he is crazy" - literally "he has a head of rotten garlic."
- mukamuka - Japanese for "so angry one feels like throwing up."
- nudnick - Yiddish for "a yakky, aggressively boring person."
- linti - Persian for "someone who idles his day away lying under a tree."
How about you? Do you speak any foreign languages? Are you a fan of the untranslatables? Do let me know in the comments.
* The illustration above is by Anjana Iyer, who designed a series for the 100 Days Project based on untranslatable words. You can view more of the illustrations here.