Meaning and life

I meant to post this last week but I read a very good book review in the Economist

Adam Jacot de Boinod, a BBC researcher, has sifted through more than 2m words in 280 dictionaries and 140 websites to discover that Albanians have 27 words for moustache—including mustaqe madh for bushy and mustaqe posht for one which droops down at both ends—that gin is Phrygian for drying out, that the Dutch say plimpplamppletteren when they are skimming stones and that instead of snap, crackle, pop, Rice Krispies in the Netherlands go Knisper! Knasper! Knusper!


Words for work, money, sex, death and horrible personal habits may well tell you more about national attitudes than anything else. Why would Russian have a special word, koshatnik, for someone who deals in stolen cats and Turkish another, cigerci, for a seller of liver and lungs, or Central American Spanish a particular name, aviador, for a government employee who shows up only on payday?

Old jokes are often the best jokes, and many of the most amusing examples are of terrible errors that can be made in different languages: there is fart (Turkish for talking nonsense), buzz (Arabic for nipple), sofa (Icelandic for sleep), shagit (Albanian for crawling on your belly), jam (Mongolian for road), nob (Wolof for love), dad (Albanian for babysitter), loo (Fulani for a storage pot), babe (SisSwati for a government minister), slug (Gaulish for servant), flab (Gaelic for a mushroom) and moron (Welsh for carrot).

Not that The Economist does not occasionally face linguistic problems: a cover story entitled “The meaning of Lulaâ€? (see article) in October 2002 resulted in a huge mailbag, not from Brazilians who were impressed at our analysis of the recent election, but from Pakistanis eager to tell us that the meaning of lula in Urdu is penis.

This book is a gem, and there are still 91 shopping days till Christmas.

Moron is Welsh for carrot hehe. I think that will definately make a good Christmas present. Bit early to be thinking about it though.