Borrowed words

Tingo, nakkele and other wonders.

English is a rich and innovative language.  But you can't help feeling we're missing out.  While English speakers have to describe the action of laughing so much that one side of your abdomen hurts (hardly an economical phrase), the Japanese have the much more efficient expression: katahara itai.  Of course, the English language has borrowed words for centuries.  Khaki and croissant are cases in point.  So perhaps it's time to be thinking about adding others to the lexicon.  Malay, for instance, has gigi rongak - the space between the teeth.  The Japanese have bakku-shan - a girl who appears pretty from behind but not from the front.  Then there's a nakkele - a man who licks whatever the food has been served on (from Tulu, India).  These fabulous examples have been collected by author Adam Jacot de Boinod into The Meaning Of Tingo - a collection of words and phrases from around the world.

There's some great words in the article, Tingo is from the Pascuense language of Easter Island and it means "to borrow objects from a friend's house, one by one, until there's nothing left".  There's also a companion website to the book.

Update 1st October 2005

BBC Magazine has published 20 of your unusual words, a follow up article with foreign phrases sent in by readers.

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