My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.
Words thrill me – their sounds, their meanings, their histories and most of all, their power to convey ideas, emotions, and observations.
So when on an airplane many years ago I encountered an excerpt from a book about words I tore out the relevant pages from the inflight magazine and have carried them ever since. And that was decades ago. Every time I thought to throw out the pages – declutter by putting them in the woodstove on the boat – I’d get another kick out of the words and their meanings and put the papers away again with the best of intetions to do something with them later.
Now is the time. The words are from “Toujours Tingo, More Extraordinary Words To Change the Way We See the World” by Adam Jacot de Boinod, published by Penguin Books.
All the words in the extract are from non-English languages, and we’d probably have a richer English language if we adopted some of them for ourselves. The English language is growing by adding technical words but at the same time is losing words for emotions and for those multiple quirks of the activities of human beings.
BANG – the word means AFRAID in Dutch
KIEBITZ – on onlooker at a card game who interferes with unwanted advice (German)
DONA – to take out lice from a person’s head and squash them between one’s teeth (Yamana, Chile)
CHOVOCHOVO – the tendency to carry on talking after others have stopped (Luvale, Zambia)
DII-KOYNA – to destroy one’s own property in anger (Ndebele, Southern Africa)
DYNKE – the act of dunking somebody’s face in snow (Norway)
WO-MBA – the smile of a sleeping child (Bakweri, Cameroon)
BUTIKA ROKA – a brother-in-law coming around too often (Gilbertese, Oceania)
PISAN ZAPRA – the time needed to eat a banana (Bahasa Malay, Malaysia)
and if you enjoy tongue twisters, try this one:
kaku kaki kakak kakak ku kayak kuku kaki kakek kakek ku – my sister’s toenails look like my grandfather’s (Indonesian)