Words. Aren’t they strange and wonderful. And what do they tell us about human beings?
For example: tsujigiri (Japanese), meaning ‘to test your new sword on a chance passer-by’. Quite an acceptable practice in feudal Japan, providing one was of samurai status.
Also Japanese, ‘boronji‘, which translates as ‘a person who goes about with his head and face concealed in a basket while playing the flageolet’.
The Germans have a word, quite a long one in fact: Hosentragersicherheitsgefuhl, which means ‘to have a sense of security about one’s braces’.
The Greeks have ‘raphanizein‘: ‘to thrust a radish up someone’s backside’ ( an ancient punishment for adulterers, apparently).
And the Spanish ‘anaranjear‘ – to kill a cockerel by throwing oranges at it.
Old Gaelic, ‘taghairn‘, to seek inspiration by wrapping oneself in a bullock’s hide and lying behind a waterfall.
And old English, ‘mallemaroking‘ – carousing by seamen in icebound ships.
Let’s not forget, though we probably have, ‘dentilegus‘ (Latin) – someone who picks up his teeth after they’ve been knocked out.
And then there’s (and this one’s controversial) old Hebrew ‘almah‘ which was mistranslated (and almost certainly deliberately) as ‘virgin’ in the Christian bible but which has nothing to do with virginity. It simply means young woman of child-bearing or marriageable age. The Hebrew for virgin is ‘bethulah‘ and does not appear in the gospels. Whilst on that topic, the Latin ‘virgo‘ does not mean virgin in its modern usage either. Like almah, it simply means young woman. ‘Virgo intacta‘ is the term for a young woman who has never had sexual intercourse.
And here are a few Inuit terms:
Allatla – baked snow.
Fritla – fried snow.
Gristla – deep fried snow.
MacTla – snow burgers.
Tlalman – snow sold to German tourists.
Ertla – snow used by Eskimo teenagers for exquisite erotic rituals.
Finally, back with German again, we have ‘Backpefeifengesicht‘ – a face in need of a good punch.
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