The word you’ve been searching for?

English is a strange yet versatile language. Words that are spelled the same can vary in meaning or pronunciation depending on the context (a “lead balloon” depends on whether you’re talking about a balloon race or a bad idea) while others change depending on the tense (“read,” for example). Still, there are times when the English language just doesn’t have the word to describe what you want to say.

A book and an article in the The Mirror may come to the rescue, exploring words and phrases in various languages that might come in handy — or are clearly highly cultural. Here’s a few of my favorites, inspired in part because I tend to tartle, I occasionally pelenti and probably had some familiarity with the concept of rhwe at times in my life.

Kaelling – Danish: a woman who stands on her doorstep yelling obscenities at her kids.

Jayus – Indonesian: someone who tells a joke so unfunny you can’t help laughing.

Tartle – Scottish: to hesitate when you are introducing someone whose name you can’t quite remember.

Oka-shete – Ndonga, Nigeria: urination difficulties caused by eating frogs before the rain has duly fallen.

Pelinti – Buli, Ghana: to move very hot food around inside one’s mouth.

Layogenic – Tagalog, Philippines: a person who is only good looking from a distance.

Rhwe – South Africa: to sleep on the floor without a mat while drunk and naked.

Rombhoru – Bengali: a woman having thighs as shapely as banana trees.

Poronkusema – Finnish: the distance equal to how far a reindeer can travel without a comfort break.

A hat tip to Three Percent for the link and, of course, credit to Toujours Tingo, the book (currently available only in the UK) that was the source of the article.

Snyavshi shtany, po volosam ne gladyat – Russian: once you’ve taken off your pants it’s too late to look at your hair.


Adam Jacot de Boinod, Toujours Tingo

2 comments to The word you’ve been searching for?

  • JK

    hilarious — does it count as a tartle when you are trying to call one of your own children, and forget/mix up/combine his name with his sibling’s?

  • Tim

    I have not only done that enough that I believe it fully deserves its own word, I have been known to call a child by the dog’s name.