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They Have a Word for It, by Howard Rheingold

Posted: Thu Apr 05, 2007 11:46 pm
by Meirav Micklem
Browsing in a charity shop recently I came across this very pleasant surprise - a book about untranslatable words and phrases called "They Have a Word for It" by Howard Rheingold.

Have only dipped into it so far but it seems quite promising in a lighthearted way.

They Have a Word for It, by Howard Rheingold

Posted: Fri Apr 06, 2007 12:51 am
by gdwdwrkr
what's the word for "share an example, you teaser, you."?

They Have a Word for It, by Howard Rheingold

Posted: Tue Apr 10, 2007 11:05 pm
by Meirav Micklem
And what's the word for "don't be such a cheapskate, buy the book"? ;-)

But I'll be generous.
Here are a couple of Japanese terms that impressed me:
shibui - the beauty of ageing
wabi - a flawed detail that creates an elegant whole

Isn't it great having words for stuff like that?! (Obviously in the book there's a much more detailed explanation about each word and how it's used.)

Now apparently in Hindi they've got a word - talanoa - for "idle talk as a social adhesive". I think that's what the Brits call "small talk" though, so either it's not really untranslatable, or I've missed something.

And of course there's an unsurprising smattering of Yiddish words - I think Yiddish is a whole untranslatable language! The word "naches", for instance, which he attempts to define as "a mixture of pleasure and pride, particularly the kind that a parent receives from a child", but I would say it is not just what a parent receives (or doesn't, if they've got kids like me) but it's what they feel they're entitled to - there's an expectation that you will grow up and "bring naches to your parents", i.e. get a good degree and a good job, marry well and have nice well-brought up kids that will bring naches to you and to their grandparents, etc.

Now you see why I didn't give examples earlier - once you start with this stuff it's hard to stop!

They Have a Word for It, by Howard Rheingold

Posted: Wed Apr 11, 2007 12:08 am
by gdwdwrkr
Thanks for wabi. Are there pictures in the book? Do they offer any illustrations (visual or otherwise)of a wabi?
My shop slogan is "Specializing in imperfection", an ambiguization which seems to work for some...

They Have a Word for It, by Howard Rheingold

Posted: Wed Apr 11, 2007 12:30 am
by Shelley
In an earlier thread about Green Houses, I called myself "wabi-sabi"-leaning. Lately it's been introduced in decorating circles as the anti-feng shui, but it's a way old way. Look here. And . . . uh -- here.

They Have a Word for It, by Howard Rheingold

Posted: Wed Apr 11, 2007 1:18 am
by gdwdwrkr
Knew I'd seen wabi somewhere before.
Great links(PICTURE!!). Thanks, Shelley.

They Have a Word for It, by Howard Rheingold

Posted: Wed Apr 11, 2007 6:54 am
by anaphylactoid
I recently recieved a similar book from a friend. "The Meaning of Tingo" by Adam Jacot de Boinod. I think it focuses more on amusing examples though. For example:

tingo (Pascuense): to take all the objects one desires from the house of a friend, one at a time, by borrowing them.

bakku-shan (Japanese): A woman who seems pretty when seen from behind, but not from the front.

areodjarekput (Inuit): to exchange wives for a few days only.

They Have a Word for It, by Howard Rheingold

Posted: Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:22 pm
by Meirav Micklem
Interesting examples, ana. bakku-shan makes me think of the British expression I've come across, "nice legs, shame about the boat-race". (Boat race being rhyming slang for face)

I think the book I've got, though it is written in a light-hearted way, is aiming not just at amusement but at smuggling words and concepts into the English language. His suggestion is that these words are not just interesting but useful. So for instance if we were to adopt these Japanese beauty-related terms, perhaps we might start developing different ideas about beauty.

Here's another one I like, this time from French:
esprit de l'escalier
This literally means the spirit of the staircase, and is used to describe that witty repartee that you think about when it's too late to say it. (The staircase, I guess, being where you are when you've left the party and are thinking about that awful thing that was said to you in there.)

gdwdwrkr, sorry no pictures in the book. Glad someone else was able to provide!

They Have a Word for It, by Howard Rheingold

Posted: Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:31 pm
by Erik_Kowal
German also has a term for "esprit de l'escalier", "Treppenwitz". You'd think the latter would have been adopted by speakers of Yiddish (or maybe it already has been, and I just don't know about it).

English does have "staircase wit" as an established expression...