September 27, 2005

Not helpful for constructors, but fun anyway

Adam Jacot de Boinod scoured foreign dictionaries for words that lack a precise equivalent in the English language—such as the German Gemütlichkeit—and gathered the best ones into a book, The Meaning of Tingo: And Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World. Here in the US, Amazon says the book will not be available until next March.

For a sneak preview, the review from The Independent offers a selection of these words. Some are essential (fucha is a Portuguese verb meaning "to use company time and resources for one's own purposes"), some are odd (buz-baz is ancient Persian for "a showman who makes a goat and monkey dance together"—hey, my dream job!), some are evocative (mamihlapinatapei is from the Fuengian language in Chile, meaning "a shared look of longing between parties who are both interested yet neither is willing to make the first move"), and some are just plain mystifying (tingo, from Easter Island's Pascuense language, means "borrowing things from a friend's house, one by one, until he has nothing left").