Saturday, 27 July 2013

Words we should adopt

In a month or so, my good friend and boss John Lloyd, and co-author Jon Canter, will see their new book published. It's called Afterliff  and it's a 30th anniversary follow up to John's and Douglas Adams' magnificent 1983 volume The Meaning of Liff. The 'liff' books are based upon a simple premise, explained here by the authors:

'In Life (and indeed in Liff), there are many hundreds of common experiences, feelings, situations and even objects which we all know and recognise, but for which no words exist. On the other hand, the world is littered with thousands of spare words which spend their time doing nothing but loafing about on signposts pointing at places. Our job, as wee see it, is to get these words down off the signposts and into the mouths of babes and sucklings and so on, where they can start earning their keep in everyday conversation and make a more positive contribution to society.'

The result was that John and Douglas gave us words like:

Brumby (n.) The fake antique plastic seal on a pretentious whisky bottle.

Detchant (n.) That part of a hymn (usually a few notes at the end of a verse) where the tune goes so high or low that you suddenly have to change octaves to accommodate it.

Lusby (n.) The fold of flesh pushing forward over the top of a bra which is too small for the lady inside it.

Sidcup (n.) One of those hats made from tying knots in the corners of a handkerchief.

...and so many more. Do seek both books out immediately.

But there have always been situations for which English has no single word and so we've sensibly borrowed them from other languages. Here are a few more that I believe we should add to our lexicon:

Age-otori (Japan): To look worse after a haircut

Arigata-meiwaku (Japan): 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 favour, and then things went wrong and caused you a lot of trouble, yet in the end social conventions required you to express gratitude

Backpfeifengesicht (Germany): A face badly in need of a fist

Gigil (Phillipines): The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute

Ilunga (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

L’esprit de l’escalier (France): usually translated as “staircase wit,” is the act of thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late to deliver it

Pena ajena (Mexico): The embarrassment you feel watching someone else’s humiliation

Tatemae and Honne (Japan): What you pretend to believe and what you actually believe, respectively

Tingo (Easter Island): to borrow objects one by one from a neighbour’s house until there is nothing left

Waldeinsamkeit (Germany): The feeling of being alone in the woods

Yoko meshi (Japan): literally ‘a meal eaten sideways,’ referring to the peculiar stress induced by speaking a foreign language.

You can find many more in Adam Jacot de Boinod's excellent book The Meaning of Tingo.

1 comment:

  1. My favourite one from Meaning Of Liff was - Dogdyke (vb.) Of dog-owners, to adopt the absurd pretence that the animal shitting in the gutter is nothing to do with them.