Did you know that people in Bolivia have a word that means I was rather too drunk last night and it's all their fault? Or that the Albanians have twenty-seven words for moustache? Or that the Dutch word for skimming stones is plimpplamppletteren? Drawing on the collective wisdom of over 280 languages, this intriguing book is arranged by theme so that you can compare attitudes all over the world to such subjects as food, the human body and the battle of the sexes. Here, you can find not only those words for which there is no direct counterpart in English (such as pana po'o in Hawaiian - to scratch your head in order to remember something important), but also those that sound confusingly the same (gin in Turkish means to dry out). Oh, and tingo is a Pascuense word from the Easter Islands meaning to borrow things from a friend's house one by one until there's nothing left .
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What began as a fortuitous discovery, when BBC researcher Adam Jacot de Boinod noticed that an Albanian dictionary contained 27 different words each for eyebrows and mustache, has become, after his obsessive 18-month journey through hundreds of foreign dictionaries, a very funny and genuinely informative guide to the world's strangest--and most useful--words. There are many books out there that invent, Sniglets-style, the words that the English language doesn't have but needs. What The Meaning of Tingo shows is that, like natural cures waiting to be found in the plants of the rainforest, many of the words already exist, in the languages of the world's other cultures. Who couldn't find a use for "neko-neko," an Indonesian word for "one who has a creative idea which only makes things worse," or "skeinkjari," a term from the Faroe Islands for "the man who goes among wedding guests offering them alcohol"? Some words that Jacot de Boinod has found are bizarre--"koro," the "hysterical belief that one's penis is shrinking into one's body" in Japanese--while others are surprisingly affecting, like the Inuit word "iktsuarpok," which means "to go outside often to see if someone is coming." And then there's "tingo" itself, from the Pascuense language of Easter Island: "to take all the objects one desires from the house of a friend, one at a time, by borrowing them."
Nearly any page you open to in The Meaning of Tingo pays hilarious tribute to the inventive genius of the world's peoples. Like Eat, Shoots & Leaves and Schott's Miscellany, with which it shares a quirky British charm and a gift-friendly look and size, The Meaning of Tingo is a UK bestseller that by all rights should become equally popular in the States. --Tom Nissley
The Man Who Swallowed 200 Dictionaries
There is no word (that we know of) to describe someone who spends a year and half of their life poring through a library's worth of dictionaries in hundreds of languages, but that's exactly what Adam Jacot de Boinod did after a chance encounter with a heavy Albanian dictionary. Listen to our interview with the author to hear just how he got started on this strange but fruitful journey, and what he hopes might be the usefulness of his light-hearted book in making us aware of the cultural riches in danger of being lost as the world's living languages become extinct nearly as quickly as its species.
The Meaning of Tingo Language Learning Lab
Adam Jacot de Boinod has chosen a handful of his own favorite words from The Meaning of Tingo Click here to hear him pronounce and define the words, and start slipping them into conversation today!
|nakhur, Persian||a camel that won't give milk until her nostrils are tickled|
|areodjarekput, Inuit||to exchange wives for a few days only|
|marilopotes, ancient Greek||a gulper of coaldust|
|ilunga, Tshiluba, Congo||someone who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time|
|cigerci, Turkish||a seller of liver and lungs|
|seigneur-terrasse, French||a person who spends much time but little money in a cafe (literally: a terrace lord)|
|Torschlusspanik, German||the fear of diminishing opportunities as one gets older (literally: gate-closing panic; often applied to women worried about being too old to have children.)|
|pana po'o, Hawaiian||to scratch your head in order to remember something|
|waterponie, Afrikaans||jet ski|
Adam Jacot de Boinod's interest in foreign languages was first aroused when doing research for the BBC programme QI and subsequently developed into a full-on vokabulyu (Russian - passion for foreign words). While searching through 280 dictionaries, 140 websites and numerous books on language, he developed an undoubted samlermani (Danish- mania for collecting), became close to being fisselig (German - flustered to the point of incompetence) and narrowly avoided karoshi (Japanese - death from overwork). He is now intending to nglayap (Indonesian - wander far from home with no particular purpose).
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