Friday, September 30, 2005

You naeka person!

Did you know that people in Indonesia have a word that means 'to take off your clothes in order to dance'? That there is a German word for the disappointment you feel when something you were apprehensive about didn't turn out as badly as it might have? And my favourite: the Malay word for 'combing one's hair in anger'. This man has gone and compiled a dictionary of the world's most apt words that describe really obscure and esoteric activities, emotions and events.

Even more hilarious are the alternative answers in Guardian's quiz on the book. For the Indonesian word neko-neko, which actually means... well take the quiz... one of the options they have invented ( I presume) is 'A woman who appears pretty when seen from behind but not from the front'. Unless there IS a word to describe just this in Indonesian, in which case they are the most brilliant race of earth.

I don't know if any Indian words make the list, but am certain that some Bengali ones would have been shoo-ins. Take the much-quoted 'naeka' for example. I don't think there is a word in any language of the world that encompasses all the nuances of this word that describes a coy, sometimes-scheming young woman who is very likely to flutter her eyelashes at men and speaks in a typical vocal intonation that can be extremely grating on the nerves. Or my grandmother's favourite 'dhankach', as in 'don't stand there like a dhankach', which essentially means a person who keeps lounging around foolishly and can't figure out how things are to be done and consequently gets on the nerves of the person who is rushing about doing things in their usual efficient way.

There are many, many more. Readers are welcome to pitch in. Till then, let me speak to my grandmother and get back.

19 Comments:

At October 02, 2005 12:18 PM, Blogger the still dancer said...

you live, you live!!!

 
At October 04, 2005 4:40 AM, Blogger Tridib said...

"Abhiman", I am told has no counterpart in the English language. So said my Bengali teacher in school. And I bet there are hundreds of Urdu words out there which will be utterly lost in translation!

 
At October 05, 2005 10:24 PM, Blogger Anyesha said...

My personal favourite was this one:

SENZURI Japanese
Male masturbation (literally "a hundred rubs"). "Shiko shiko manzuri" is the female version (literally "ten thousand rubs").

Gosh...it took them that long...

 
At October 06, 2005 5:11 PM, Blogger Accidental Fame Junkie said...

Hi, you are right about "naeka." I find it difficult to tell people what it is.

 
At October 14, 2005 11:09 AM, Blogger Rash said...

...aah naeka brings lovely memories of so many female bong journos ;)

 
At October 14, 2005 10:53 PM, Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Nyaka and obhimaan, of course.

The French coquette is in the same orbit as nyaka though not an exact counterpart.

Obhimaan as we understand it is not found anywhere else that I know of. Witness the entirely different connotation of the Hindi abhimaan (difficult to spell that without a capital A ... such magic from S.D. Burman)

How about minshey? Or even min-miney?

I agree with Tridib about Urdu. It is such a nuanced language, I don't think any of the Germanic or Romance languages can come close without compound words. Imagine a Nordic giant trying to translate even the most trite shayr with its giley - shikwey - qhataeyn. The imagination boggles quite vigorously.

J.A.P.

 
At October 14, 2005 11:15 PM, Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock said...

A request - could you please provide a link to your Telegraph article on Bangali restaurants?

J.A.P.

 
At October 15, 2005 4:40 AM, Blogger jive said...

great link...liked it!

 
At October 16, 2005 10:09 AM, Blogger Buchu said...

well, bengalis make a fine distinction between byatha and jwala which is quite unique.

and oh, kaybla. idiot doesn't quite capture the spirit of that word.

 
At October 20, 2005 12:27 PM, Blogger Accidental Fame Junkie said...

Talking about Kaybla, what about Haanda?

 
At October 23, 2005 5:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At October 26, 2005 11:59 AM, Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

Diligently wrote replies to all the comments only to have the whole bloody thing disappear into ether when I tried to post it. Gah! Sometimes, don't you just hate the Internet?

TIP: Ctrl C, Ctrl C, Ctrl C

 
At October 27, 2005 9:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At November 02, 2005 12:04 PM, Blogger Ron said...

how about daat kelaane bancharam? :-)

 
At November 05, 2005 1:41 AM, Blogger the silkworm said...

the Hindi word 'jugaar'... if you know how it's used... hard to find an English equivalent. In fact, quite hard to even define... one just knows!

 
At November 18, 2005 2:59 AM, Blogger Bald Monkey said...

Sylheti, the dialect of bengali which we speak at home has a few interesting ones too. ( a rustic but rather colourful tongue )

Dhusnusu --- > shilly shallying with a not so harmless intent.

Nobodonka -- > A hollow person, lacking any substance.

Boitol -- > Similar to nobodonka, a person without a base, (tol).

the list does go on...

 
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At September 11, 2007 12:01 AM, Anonymous Anonimous said...

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