So, duh: There are like a jillion Inuit words for “snow.” But did you know there are 108 in Hawaiian for “sweet potato”? And 27 ways to say “eyebrow” in Albanian?
And sure, you work the ever-useful German schadenfreude in every now and again, but how about kummerspeck, the excess weight gained from emotional overeating?
For your reading pleasure, author Adam Jacot de Boinod mines these and other lexical gems in The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World, a diverting dictionary of words that have no direct equivalent in English.
The book features such exotica as mamihlapinatapei, Fuegian for “the shared look of longing when both parties know the score but neither is willing to make the first move.” And lledorweddle, Welsh for “to lie down while propping yourself on one elbow.” And, of course, tingo, a word from Easter Island meaning “to take all of the objects one desires from the house of a friend by borrowing them one at a time.”
You’ll never be fluent in Farsi, but if you’re a word enthusiast of the less persnickety variety, Tingo’s sure to get you all ai bu shishou.
That’s Chinese for feeling so delighted with something that you can hardly take your eyes off it.
Available online at amazon.com or at your local bookstore.