A different language is a different vision of life ~ Federico Fellini

All languages are not created equal. According to The Meaning of Tingo : And Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World by Adam Jacot de Boinod, the Albanian dictionary contains 27 different words each for eyebrows and mustache.

In England and in America, we know Rice Crispies cereal goes”Snap, crackle, pop!” but in Germany, they go “Pif! Paf! Pouf!” In France, they go “Cric! Crac! Croc!” In Spain, they go “Cris! Cras! Cros!” And in Holland, they go “Knisper! Knasper! Knusper!”

Do you remember Sniglets? Gosh, I loved Sniglets! They’re (made up) words that don’t appear in the dictionary but should. Here are some real words from other languages (from the book, The Meaning of Tingo), that I think we should adopt.

Nakhur (origin: Persian) – A camel that won’t give milk until her nostrils are tickled.

Tingo (origin: Easter Island) – To take all the objects one desires from the house of a friend, one at a time, by asking to borrow them.

Neko-neko (origin: Indonesian) – One who has a creative idea which only makes things worse.

Koro (origin: Japanese) – The hysterical belief that one’s penis is shrinking into one’s body.

Iktsuarpok (origin: Inuit) – To go outside often to see if someone is coming.

Ilunga, (origin: Congo) – Someone who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time.

Seigneur-terrasse (origin: French) – A person who spends much time but little money in a cafe (literally: a terrace lord).

Torschlusspanik (origin: German) – The fear of diminishing opportunities as one gets older (literally: gate-closing panic; often applied to women worried about being too old to have children.)

Pana po’o (origin: Hawaiian) – To scratch your head in order to remember something.

Schadenfreude (origin: German) – The feeling of malicious pleasure we get when misfortune comes to someone else.

Schlimazl (origin: Yiddish) – Inept and lazy fool.

The reviews for the book, The Meaning of Tingo, seem mixed. There are a lot of people saying it’s inaccurate which is a disappointment to me. Hopefully the author will make corrections and publish a new version.

Now I know some of you are bilingual and multilingual. Do you have any fun words to share with us?

Here are a few I know from Spanish:

Meriendar – To have a light bite to eat.

Pasearse – To take a leisurely stroll.

Sinvergüenza – One without shame.

“-ito” or “-ita” can be added to many words to make it mean “a little bit”. For example. The word sick is “enfermo”. To say someone is a little sick, you would say they are “enfermito”. This can also be added on to someone’s name to show affection. Our son Nick is often called “Nicolito” – little Nicolas.

Ok – now it’s your turn! I know among my readers I have some that speak Arabic, Punjabi, Urdu, Inuit, Spanish, French, Hawaiian and Tagalog, to name a few! Who else is hiding and won’t you please come out and share! :)



Filed under books, culture

15 responses to “A different language is a different vision of life ~ Federico Fellini

  1. Jana

    I can’t think of any good foreign words, but my favorite Sniglet is Cinemuck: that gooey stuff on theater floors.

  2. Miranda

    Wow! I had never even thought about sniglets before. Interesting1

  3. Aisha

    In my linguistics class back in the day in college we learned how each language is so different reflecting what each culture values. Alaskans native language has 45 different words for snow because of its importance in their life… In the US its “aunt” “uncle” “grandmother” but in Pakistan its “mami” for maternal uncle’s iwfe. “mamoo” for maternal uncle. Even maternal uncle’s wife’s family has particular titles. Its interesting :) nana: maternal grandad. nanee maternal grandma. Dada: paternal granddad. Dadi: paternal grandmother. phoopi: paternal aunt, chacha: paternal younger uncle, tai abu: paternal older uncle. Seriously! lol.

  4. Tee

    Jana – LOL! That is a good one! I stepped in some cinemuck last time I went to the movies!

    Miranda – They were invented by a comedian, I believe, and have been around for a few decades!

    Aisha – I heard this about Alaskans (I believe it’s the Inuit they’re speaking of. People who are incorrectly called Eskimos.) But I have also read this is a urban myth – that really they have a few words for snow but it’s been blown out of proportion. Maybe somebody who can speak with more authority on the subject will comment! I know one blogger who is Inuit and lives in Alaska.

    As for the titles for all these relatives – that’s absolutly genius! And that really shows the importance of extended family in the culture, too.

  5. Bossy?'s YOU

    oh tee, u have way too much time on your hands..haha

    i have never heard of sniggets.

    where the hell have I been?

  6. Aisha

    wow if its an urban myth that is scary b/c I learned it in my graduate level education course. wouldnt be the first time i’ve been given incorrect information.

  7. Aisha

    Some links sort of debunking this:



    I guess basically tis not like 100 unique words for snow but more like sufixes etc. Which is how I learned it.

    Phew. Wanted to make sure I had learned correctly and got a decent education at the lovely Univ of Floreeda.

  8. Pol*

    My favourite sniglet was “sparetts” (not sure about the spelling) definition: those little red creases on your face and body when you wake up, caused by sheets and pillow wrinkles. I use the word in my everyday life, and my kids have picked it up as real.

  9. ...my 2 cents

    Hmmm. Interesting stuff. Yeah, it does seem like we could have a few more English words for some of those expressions…

    I, too, speak alot of Spanish and my cousins and I are always adding “ito” or “ita” on the ends of English words when talking about something little or really tiny. We tend to start mixing alot of Spanish and English when we’re getting silly.

  10. Kathryn

    i don’t know if i know any sniglets. .

    *scratching my head*

    This is an entertaining post, Tee!
    Alas, all i can think of is the names my husband gives to different kinds of farts. . LOL!!!

  11. sarahgrace

    Oh how I wish I was bilingual…four years of Spanish, and as you know, if you don’t have anybody to speak it with, it goes down the drain…

    I don’t even know if this is a sniglet…but we used to call those things you get in your eyes after a long night of sleeping… “sleepy birds”…but anyways…

  12. Tracy

    Schlimazl? As in Laverne & Shirley? Schlameel, schlimazl, blah blah blah incorporated… Remember? The little song they danced along the sidewalk to? It kind of makes sense now. :)

  13. Tee

    Bossy – LOL. If it makes you feel better I had forgotten about them for YEARS!

    Aisha – *whew* :) LOL. We’re so funny. What would we do without Google? <3 <3 <3 LOL.

    Pol* – Isn’t that funny how a family kind of has their own mini-language? I don’t know how it came about but instead of saying something is done too fast, we say “rushy rushy”. ROFL. I have no idea why! The kids also think that’s a normal word.

    My two cents – Yeah, my 2 sons start mixing in Spanish words to be funny – but they use the potty words :P BOYS!

    Kathryn – :o … LOL! I know “silent but deadly”. What are the others? ROFL.

    SarahGrace – LOL. Sleepy birds? That is one I’ve never heard! We have always called them “Shmutz” which is yiddish for any kind of “dirt”.

    Tracy – Yes – Same schlemazel. It can also mean someone who has bad luck. And Schlemeel is similar – it’s like a person who is always messing things up. As for the part “blah blah blah” – ROFL. They say “Hazenfeffer incorporated”. Hazenfeffer is a german word for rabbit stew. LOL. I have no idea what the Laverne and Shirley lyrics are supposed to mean. Maybe it’s an inside joke.

  14. Kathryn

    okay, Rob’s ‘names’ for farts:

    “Chimneys” these are the ones that happen when you’re seated and, well they . .go up — you know! *rhymes with ‘ack’!*

    “Lift ‘er and Give ‘er”
    Sitting over to one side and givin’ ‘er!

    “Squeakers” are the ones you try to control on their way out!!

    “Green cloud”. . this is what he calls the ‘silent but deadly’ variety.

  15. Tee

    Kathryn – ROFLMAO. That’s a man for ya! ;)

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