27 September 2005

The Meaning of Tingo

German propensity for compounds creates many delightful instances where a single word requires an entire clause in English. Kummerspeck literally means 'grief bacon': it is the word that designates the fat put on due to overeating when you are anxious and emotional. A Putzfimmel is a mania for cleaning and Drachenfutter (literally dragon fodder) refers to the peace offerings which guilty husbands make to their wives. Or there is die beleidigte Leberwurst spielen - to stick one's lower lip out in a sulk (literally to act the offended liver sausage). Perhaps it's a Backpfeifengesicht - a face that cries out for a fist in it. These delightful examples have been collected by Adam Jacot de Boinod into the book The Meaning Of Tingo, a collection of words and phrases from around the world. "What I'm really trying to do is celebrate the joy of foreign words (in a totally unjudgmental way) and say that while English is a great language, one shouldn't be surprised there are many others having, as they do, words with no English equivalent," he says. Having consulted over 280 dictionaries and 140 websites, he is convinced that a country's dictionary says more about its culture than a guidebook.