The top ten: Useful words for which there is no English equivalent
John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting professor at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.
Sunday 16 June 2013
David Remnick, editor of 'The New Yorker', once described the British as the only nation capable of feeling Schadenfreude about themselves. Thus he took a word that isn't even English, but with which we are familiar, and turned it against us. Words in foreign or dead languages are on my Banned List, but some are so useful they have to be admitted on a temporary idiom visa...
1. Schadenfreude: Joy in the misfortune of others. German.
2. Wei-wu-wei: Deliberate decision not to do something. Chinese. From an online list compiled by Feedbacq.
3. Prozvonit: To call a mobile phone to have it ring once so that the other person calls back, saving the first caller money. Czech and Slovak. Allegedly.
4. Age-otori: To look worse after a haircut. Japanese.
5. Chutzpah: Cheek but with extremely self-confident audacity. Yiddish. Nominated by Rafael Behr.
6. Zeg: The day after tomorrow. Georgian. Sometimes English lacks subtlety. Here it lacks simple utility.
7. Stramash: Fight, uproar. Scottish and northern English.
8. Esprit de l'escalier: The brilliantly witty response you didn't think of until too late. French.
9. Fremdschämen: Being embarrassed for someone else, often someone who should be but isn't. Given that English was a half-German pidgin, it is surprising how many words we still have to borrow.
10. Pesmenteiro: One who shows up to a funeral for the food. Portuguese. Also from Feedbacq, but disputed by Torre de Marfim, who is Brazilian.?
Next week: The top 10 visual clichés (a list that started with wedding-cake decorations used to illustrate articles about gay marriage). Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to firstname.lastname@example.org
Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts
Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested
George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios
Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?
Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets
Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination
I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title
- 1 Indian footballer Peter Biaksangzuala dies after injuring spine doing somersault celebration
- 2 Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 3 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Lynda Bellingham dead: Loose Women presenter dies after battle with colon cancer
Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake report claiming that the street artist's identity has been revealed
'Russian submarine spotted' by Swedish military off coast of Stockholm
Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
Hurricane Gonzalo: When will it hit the UK and how strong will it be?
Oscar Pistorius sentence: Athlete's wealth and notoriety provoke an overdue debate on South African prisons
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver allegedly kicks gay couple off for kissing
£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...
£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...
£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...