The most succinct word – 16/08/2010

Word Dorks, today I found what the Guinness Book of Records recognises as the most succinct word: Mamihlapinatapai, the meaning of which is “a look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that they both desire but which neither one wants to start.”

Unfortunately this then opened the wikipedia-rabbit-hole which lead me to the Untranslatable words and the merely difficult to translate (I’m sure that’s been linked here before, but I couldn’t find it).

I was also fascinated to see that it lead me to a Hofstadter book, Le Ton beau de Marot, In Praise of the Music of Language, described by the author as “ruminations on the art of translation”. I’ve not read that one yet, but his Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid was another of those books that kept my teenage brain wandering into dark corners of learning (half a life ago) – if you like wordplay, I highly recommend GEB’s Crab Canon as a playful example of Hofstadter’s ability with language.