Wrap your laughing gear around these gems



I was watching one of those fascinating Louis Theroux specials on US prisons not long ago and one of the inmates had set himself a task of learning one new word from the dictionary per day. On request, he recited a couple of the most recent additions to his repertoire. One of these was 'kookaburra'. Understandably, with presumably few Aussie inmates on hand to help him finesse the pronunciation, it took me a while to recognise that it was in fact an Australian  bird to which he was referring.

At any rate I rated it a noble resolution. I too love discovering terms that were previously unknown to me; the real challenge is to find opportunities to flex the vocab muscle without a) getting it wrong and b) sounding like a complete tosser.

For extra points, what about learning and using words from languages other than english? Je vous dĂ©fie! 

With this in mind, I was delighted to become well learned and wise thanks to this list of extremely useful words for which there are no English translations. I can't take credit for the compilation (it's my first week back at work and the Australian Open is keeping me up to ungodly hours in the morning so I thank Alex Wain for doing the honours and allowing me to ease into 2013 brain functionality ...). Don't even bother trying to tell me there's not something in there you need to utter immediately if not sooner.


1 Age-otori (Japanese): To look worse after a haircut
2 Arigata-meiwaku (Japanese): An act someone does for you that you didn’t want to have them do and tried to avoid having them do, but they went ahead anyway, determined to do you a favor, and then things went wrong and caused you a lot of trouble, yet in the end social conventions required you to express gratitude
3 Backpfeifengesicht (German): A face badly in need of a fist
4 Bakku-shan (Japanese): A beautiful girl… as long as she’s being viewed from behind
5 Desenrascanço (Portuguese): “to disentangle” yourself out of a bad situation 
6 Duende (Spanish): a climactic show of spirit in a performance or work of art, which might be fulfilled in flamenco dancing, or bull-fighting, etc.
7 Forelsket (Norwegian): The euphoria you experience when you are first falling in love
8 Gigil (pronounced Gheegle; Filipino): The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute
9 Guanxi (Mandarin): in traditional Chinese society, you would build up good guanxi by giving gifts to people, taking them to dinner, or doing them a favor, but you can also use up your gianxi by asking for a favor to be repaid
10 Ilunga (Tshiluba, Congo): A person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time
11 L’esprit de l’escalier (French): usually translated as “staircase wit,” is the act of thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late to deliver it
12 Litost (Czech): a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery
13 Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan): A look between two people that suggests an unspoken, shared desire
14 Manja (Malay): “to pamper”, it describes gooey, childlike and coquettish behavior by women designed to elicit sympathy or pampering by men. “His girlfriend is a damn manja. Hearing her speak can cause diabetes.”
15 Meraki (pronounced may-rah-kee; Greek): Doing something with soul, creativity, or love. It’s when you put something of yourself into what you’re doing
16 Nunchi (Korean): the subtle art of listening and gauging another’s mood. In Western culture, nunchi could be described as the concept of emotional intelligence. Knowing what to say or do, or what not to say or do, in a given situation. A socially clumsy person can be described as ‘nunchi eoptta’, meaning “absent of nunchi”
17 Pena ajena (Mexican Spanish): The embarrassment you feel watching someone else’s humiliation
18 Pochemuchka (Russian): a person who asks a lot of questions
19 Schadenfreude (German): the pleasure derived from someone else’s pain
20 Sgriob (Gaelic): The itchiness that overcomes the upper lip just before taking a sip of whisky
21 Taarradhin (Arabic): implies a happy solution for everyone, or “I win. You win.” It’s a way of reconciling without anyone losing face. Arabic has no word for “compromise,” in the sense of reaching an arrangement via struggle and disagreement
22 Tatemae and Honne (Japanese): What you pretend to believe and what you actually believe, respectively
23 Tingo (Pascuense language of Easter Island): to borrow objects one by one from a neighbour’s house until there is nothing left
24 Waldeinsamkeit (German): The feeling of being alone in the woods
25 Yoko meshi (Japanese): literally ‘a meal eaten sideways,’ referring to the peculiar stress induced by speaking a foreign language

Can anyone confirm whether there is a foreign equivalent of: that's what I'm talking 'bout! ... ?



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