Reddit, always a source of entertaining group intelligence, has been asked ESL redditors, what’s a really useful English word that you don’t have in your native language? And they have responded with the usual gusto, listing many, and being corrected when wrong:
- Russian could use a word like tacky
- Russian has no word for thirsty (strong language)
- Turkish needs parent
- Urdu only has one word for yesterday and tomorrow
- Finnish has no please
- French has no obnoxious
Of course, then there are the more, shall we say, informative answers. I’ll put a strong language themes warning here, but there’s a lot to be learnt:
The Stupid and/or Mythical: Ronald Reagan laughed at the Russians because their language didn’t even have a word for ‘detente’.
The Profane then educative: Fuck. Which leads to the claim and then counter claim about being the most useful word. The counter claim is fascinating, introducing me to the previously unknown Chinese poet Yuen Ren Chao and his amazing poem Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den, which I will present here in it’s entirety:
Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī. Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī. Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì. Shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì. Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì. Shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì. Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì. Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī. Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī, shí shí shí shī shī. Shì shì shì shì.
Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den
In a stone den was a poet called Shi, who was a lion addict, and had resolved to eat ten lions.
He often went to the market to look for lions.
At ten o’clock, ten lions had just arrived at the market.
At that time, Shi had just arrived at the market.
He saw those ten lions, and using his trusty arrows, caused the ten lions to die.
He brought the corpses of the ten lions to the stone den.
The stone den was damp. He asked his servants to wipe it.
After the stone den was wiped, he tried to eat those ten lions.
When he ate, he realized that these ten lions were in fact ten stone lion corpses.
Try to explain this matter.
You can hear Google pronounce it here
The French double entendres: Not having a word for sibling (interesting) then leads to the claim that they have mutant words for the number’s 70-99 and the obvious “too distracted after 69” joke.
The where-else-but-reddit: Apparently, the english ability to verbify other words eg, “scienced” or “googled”, is somewhat unusual, and missed, which leads to some interesting mutations and silliness.
And finally The weirdest of afflictions: the Spanish have no word for moist, which others (and I’ve met one once) consider to be the nastiest word in English, and is apparently one of the main triggers to those with the affliction known as Word Aversion:
But there are a few words that, very often, make me sick to my stomach, and, it turns out, I’m not the only one. This is, I’ve learned, just part of language and is known as “word aversion.” It’s not like word rage, which occurs when you hate a word or phrase because of its associations with a particular group of people or trend, (“bromance,” “Twi-hard”), because people often use it incorrectly, (“your/you’re”) or because you think it’s pretentious, (“nomenclature,” “obtuse,” “pretentious”). Word aversion has nothing to do with meaning and is all about the actual word. Word aversion is, according to Language Log, …bred of the mysterious relationships between language, emotion, memory, sound and mouthfeel.” (Sidebar: “Mouthfeel” is just an awful, awful word. Why would anyone include “mouthfeel” in an essay about word aversion?)