Monday, September 26, 2005

Gigi rongak, Bakku-shan, and Backpfeifengesicht

Estimates on the number of words in the English language range from 500,000 to over two million. (Obviously, figuring out the number of words in a language is more difficult than one might suspect.) At any rate, with all those words floating around you'd think that English has virtually every thing, action, or concept covered.

Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Adam Jacot de Boinod has scoured several hundred language dictionaries looking for words which have no English equivalents, and he has collected them in his book The Meaning Of Tingo, a collection of distinctly non-English words and phrases. Here are some choice examples:
  • gigi rongak -- the space between the teeth (Malaysian)
  • bakku-shan-- a girl who looks pretty from the back but not the front (Japanese)
  • backpfeifengesicht -- a face that cries out for a fist in it (German)
  • kummerspeck (grief bacon) -- excess weight gained while overeating during emotional times (German)
  • plimpplampplettere -- skimming stones across the water (Netherlands)
For more choice terms, read "Tingo, nakkele and other wonders" in the BBC News Online.

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