Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The woefully inadequate English language

"English is such a limited language. Why does it not have a word for the rushing sound a grandfather clock makes before striking the hour or the act of sticking a finger up a chicken’s bottom to see if it is about to lay an egg? Others do," writes Alan Hamilton in his discussion of Adam Jacot de Boinod's "second compendium of unlikely but useful words that other languages enjoy but English does not. "

Boinod's "original compilation included such obscurities as the Japanese baku-shan (a woman who looks better from behind) and nakhur, from the Farsi, meaning a camel that won’t give milk until its nostrils are tickled."

Hamilton admits, however, that English speakers will probably have little opportunity "for an equivalent of the Finnish poronkusema, being the distance a reindeer can travel without taking a comfort break. Nor would a snappy translation of embasan, from the Maguindanaon language of the Philippines and meaning to wear clothes while taking a bath, be daily on the lips of the chattering classes."

2 comments:

noraglossia said...

Update on words not found in English:

The Wooden Spoon blog has a link to this article in the British paper The Mirror: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weirdworld/2007/10/23/weird-and-wondrful-foreign-phrases-89520-19993239/

Daniel said...

Psh! English is handly lacking. We will take your words and use them, change them – they shall be our words then! Muahahaha!

No seriously just give us the words... English is the happy-go-lucky homeless guy of languages. We will take what we can get and make a little mansion of the alley.