Monday, March 8, 2010

Did you know "Santa" in Arabic means wart?

I find inspiration for writing in mining my treasure trove of newspaper clippings, random quotes scribbled on scraps, articles torn from magazines and other literary flotsam and jetsam I've tucked away over the years, thinking it might come in handy one day.
Tonight, while delving into some long-untouched boxes, I came across an article from the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Weekend magazine dated November 5, 2005.
I read somewhere recently, and I can't think where, but someone supposedly qualified in such matters said English has the most depth and versatility of any modern language. The implication being that the writer who writes in the English language has the most advantageous start.
I'm not sure about that.
In his Good Weekend article, Adam Jacot de Boinod, author of The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words From Around the World, introduces turns of phrase in languages that make English look stolid.
There's a writing exercise right here in some of these gems. Let's see - can you craft a credible storyline using any of these words?:
nakhur (Persian) - meaning "a camel that won't give milk until her nostrils have been tickled"
areodjarekput (Inuit) - "to exchange wives for a few days only"
marilopates (Ancient Greek) - "a gulper of coal dust"
tsjuri-giri (Japanese) - "to try out a new sword on a passer-by"
zechpreller (German) - "someone who leaves without paying the bill"
neko-neko (Indonesian) - "one who has a creative idea which only makes things worse"
serein (French) - "the rain that falls from a cloudless sky"
pu'ukaula (Hawaiian) - "to set up one's wife as a stake in gambling"
scheissbedauern (German) - "the disappointment one feels when things don't turn out nearly as badly as one had hoped" (...bizarre!)
And from the "I can't believe someone made up a word for that"'s this one?!:
bakku-shan (Japanese) "a woman who seems pretty when seen from behind but not from the front"
Some country, somewhere, has got to have a male equivalent. Anyone??

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