[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 30 September 2005, 08:27 GMT 09:27 UK
20 of your unusual words
Easter Island
Tingo - Easter Island phrase for borrowing from a friend until there's nothing left
Earlier this week, we told of a new book which celebrates unusual words from other languages. Here are the best of your favourites, sent in response to that article.

As we reported on Monday, The Meaning of Tingo, by Adam Jacot de Boinod, is celebrating words from other cultures. But Magazine readers sent in plenty of their own, the best of which are published below. (The Magazine however makes no undertaking for the accuracy of translations. And accents have been left off on purpose.)

1. "My favourite is the French 'l'esprit d'escalier', or spirit of the staircase. This is used to describe the precise moment a person comes up with a clever retort to an embarrassing insult. It is usually after leaving the party, and walking down the stairs that the quip comes to mind."
Lee, Wellington, New Zealand

2. "In Chinese if you tell a man they 'dai Lu maozi', meaning 'he wears the green hat', it means that his wife is sleeping with someone else."
Zac Teehan, Fredericton

3. "It's weird that English doesn't have words for 'vorgestern' (the day before yesterday) and 'ubermorgen' (the day after tomorrow)."
Anke, Germany

4. "I think my favourite word, and not for its literal meaning, is the Spanish 'puente' meaning bridge. Unlike ourselves, they cleverly place their bank holidays on a Tuesday so that Monday will, on most occasions, be treated as a bridge day (an extra day of holiday) ensuring a four day weekend. Ah, the Mediterranean lifestyle..."
Gary Walker, Barcelona

5. "My favourite is 'faire du leche-vitrines' which literally means 'to lick the windows' and translates as window-shopping.
Phil, in France

6. "I have a soft spot for the German 'luftkissenfahrzeug'. The literal translation being 'air cushion vehicle', but to you and I it is the simple 'hovercraft'."
Jude , Birmingham, UK

7. "In Cyprus, the instrument used to remove staples from paper is termed a 'petalouda', literally translated into 'butterfly'. Go figure."
Jasmine, Nicosia, Cyprus

8. "In Japanese, 'amakudari', literally descent from heaven, describes the phenomenon of being employed by a firm in an industry one has previously, as a government bureaucrat, been involved in regulating."
Jack L. Yohay, Nabari, Mie-ken, Japan

9. "My favourite is the Spanish for handcuffs...'esposas'...mi esposa means 'my wife'. So 'mi esposa, mis esposas' means 'my wife, my handcuffs'."
Ben, Bristol, UK

10. "In Arabic an electrical plug adapter that allows more than one plug to be plugged into the same socket is known as a 'harami', literally a thief."
Brian, Jeddah

11. "There are a few more interesting German words such as 'handschuhschneeballwerfer', which means somebody, who wears gloves to throw snow balls. It is used in general for all cowards."
Bernie, Duesseldorf

12. "In Romania 'pune-ti pofta-n cui' (literally - hang your craving in a nail on the wall) means to forget about getting something."
Gabriel, Bucharest, Romania

13. "In Japan we call a balding man's comb over a 'bar code'."
Kevin, Tokyo

14. "The Fuegians (from Tierra del Fuego) have a succinct word - 'mamihlapinatapai' and it means 'two people looking at each other each hoping the other will do what both desire but neither is willing to do'."
Zephyrus, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

15. "So far as I'm aware, no other language has anything equivalent to the Icelandic 'setja upp gestaspjot', a verbal phrase denoting the action taken by a cat when cleaning itself, with its body curled tightly in a circle and one back leg sticking directly up in the air. Literally it means 'put up a guest-spear' and when a cat was seen doing this it was supposed to indicate that visitors would be turning up."
Nicholas Jones, Cambridge, England

16. "I'm a student of the Ubykh language, which has a word - 'qaamch'ip'q'i' - that means 'a filigree metal ornament on the handle of a whip'. It's also an idiomatic term for someone whose good or kind outward appearance is deceptive."
Rohan Fenwick, Brisbane, Australia

17. "My favourite used to regularly appear on Austrian traffic reports - 'geisterfahrer' or 'ghost driver' - one travelling the wrong way up an autobahn."
Eric Pritchard, Clevedon, UK

18. "In Venezuela we have 'culebra', literally snake, but meaning a long, morbid, sentimental soap opera. 'My wife is watching the snake,' means that she is watching the soap opera."
Ivan, Caracas, Venezuela

19. "From Flemish: 'iets door de vingers kijken', literally it means looking at something through the fingers, allowing something illegal or incorrect to happen by conscious inaction."
Wouter Vandersypen, Washington DC

20. "As a native German one of my all-time favourites is the word 'gemutlich' - impossible to translate directly."
Jessica, Nottingham, UK

If you disagree with any of these translations, let us know using the form below.

The translation of "avoir l'esprit d'escalier" is correct, but it originates from concierges, apartment building caretakers, who always had a reputation for short-tempered, ironical and sometimes downright vulgar one-liners. You would be most likely to encounter the concierge on the stairs, hence the term.
Helene Bourrachot, Sydney Australia

Your e-mail address
Town/city and country
Your comment

The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific