in a word

It could have been the end of a beautiful friendship. “I think your house is really hoogly,” declared the gal pal looking around.

Say what!

Agreed, a 1960s ski chalet complete with faux stone walls built by a homesick Austrian with nary an alp in sight is not to everyone’s taste, but that’s pretty harsh, Raelee.

It’s a Danish word, she explains. It’s actually spelt hyggelig, but like so many Scandinavian phrases it’s pronounced as if speaking through a kazoo.

It implies a sort of welcoming fire-lit cosiness and intimacy.

And it’s just one of scores of evocative words with no English equivalent.

That tub of ice cream you ate after breaking up with the boyfriend, creating extra lard on your hips, is kummerspeck – a German word that translates literally as grief bacon.

The person who calls you on your mobile and hangs up so you call back, saving them money, is a real prozvonit to the Czechs.

Folk addicted to solarium tans – a la perennially bronzed actor George Hamilton – are called slampadato by the Italians.

In the language of the Yaghan people of Tierra del Fuego that “look shared by two people each wishing that the other would do something that they both desire but which neither wants to initiate” is a mamihlapinatapai.

That smart comeback line you thought of too late? The French phrase is l’espirit de l’escalier – a retort thought of halfway down the stairs.

Just where is all this boketto – the Japanese equivalent of gazing vacantly through a window – going?

Truly, I’m at a loss for words to explain.

PS: The husband found the below  list from the 1970s.

In 1970 Dmitri Borgmann and Dwight Ripley compiled a list of “missing words” — foreign words with complex or interesting meanings that have no counterparts in English. I can’t immediately confirm most of these, but they’d certainly be useful words:

DENTERA (Spanish): a setting of the teeth on edge
PAPABILE (Italian): having some chance of becoming Pope
PIECDZIESIECIORUBLOWY (Polish): costing fifty rubles
PREDSVATEBNY (Czech): taking place on the eve of a wedding
KWELDER (Dutch): land on the outside of a dike
EZERNYOLCSZAZNEGYVENNYOLCBAN (Hungarian): in 1848
PASAULVESTURISKS (Lettish): of worldwide significance
MIHRAP (Turkish): a woman still beautiful though no longer young
UBAC (Provençal): the sunless north side of a mountain
HARFENDAZ (Turkish): one who makes insulting remarks to women in the street
PENCELESMEK (Turkish): to lock fingers with another and have a test of strength
MEZABRALIS (Lettish): a revolutionary hiding in a forest
MATAO (Brazilian Portuguese): a jockey who crowds the others against the fence
NEMIMI (Japanese): the ears of one sleeping
YOKOTOJI (Japanese): bound so as to be broader than long — said of a book
TOADEIRA (Portuguese): a harpooned whale that continues to sound

 

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