Friday, September 30, 2005

Weird and wonderful vocabulary

JIEYU Chinese
To break into jail in order to rescue a prisoner.
YUYURUNGUL Yindiny, Australia
The noise of a snake sliding through grass.
ZHENGRONG Chinese
To improve one's looks by plastic surgery.
BAKKU-SHAN Japanese
A girl who looks as though she might be pretty when seen from behind, but isn't when seen from the front. (brilliant - we need that word in English!)
KERTEK Malay
The sound of dry leaves or twigs being trodden underfoot.
YUYIN Chinese
The remnants of sound that stay in the ears of the hearer
KORO Japanese
The hysterical belief that one's penis is shrinking into one's body.
GRILAGEM Brazilian Portuguese
The practice of putting a live cricket into a box of newly faked documents, until the insect's excrement makes the paper look convincingly old.
FUCHA Portuguese
To use company time and resources for one's own purposes.
PAUKIKAPE Ancient Greek
The collar worn by slaves while grinding corn, in order to stop them eating it.

I got those examples from a review of Adam Jacot de Boinod's book, 'The Meaning of Tingo'. It's just the sort of book that I enjoy browsing through, the ideal book for spending too much time with on the toilet. And, because I liked those examples, I thought I'd surf for other reviews that may also give examples from the book.

Hey, what can I say, I'm a cheapskate - why buy the book if you can find all it says on the net?

So, what did I find? Quite a few reviews, many of which gave a few more examples, but also a fair number of articles and blog postings that debunk the book and its premise.

Languagehat summarises it in an entry entitled 'Tingo and Other Nonsense', giving this example taken from Language Log, another great blog on languages:

As an aside, the reliance on sketchy online dictionaries and wordlists can yield unintentionally humorous results. Take, for instance, the Maserati Kubang. Unveiled in 2003, this "concept car" is supposedly named after "a wind over Java." (Maserati has a tradition of naming cars after exotic-sounding winds.) Close, but no cigar — the actual word is kumbang, not kubang. Angin kumbang literally means "bumblebee wind" in Javanese and Indonesian, and it refers to a very dry south or southwesterly wind that blows into the port of Cirebon on the north coast of Java. But this got mangled on various websites listing winds of the world..., and kumbang was changed to kubang. What does kubang mean in Indonesian? "Mudhole, mud puddle, quagmire."

Probably not the image Maserati was going for!


The language boffs dismiss de Boinod as a 'BBC researcher' with 'no knowledge of linguistics/languages' who compiled his book with the aid of dictionaries and on-line wordlists. And they dismiss the book as being riddled with errors and inaccuracies.

Damn, that's a shame, now I won't trust anything that comes from the book. It does provide me with one consolation though - I won't be tempted to buy it.

In case you want to know what 'tingo' means, it means to borrow objects one by one from a friend's house until nothing is left

3 Comments:

Blogger JP said...

With regard to Bakku-Shan...there is an English alternative which is at least similar in 'LRF', or Low Resolution Fox - refering to someone who looks yummy from a short distance but becomes less attractive on closer inspection.

Just FYI Alsey baby.

8:33 am  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

Never heard of the term...will have to store it for future use!

9:28 am  
Anonymous www.crearpaginaweb.com said...

So, I don't actually suppose this may have success.

8:30 am  

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