THE MOST inspiring thing I have read all year is on a wall in the Scandinavian exhibition at the Barbican Centre in London. It is not the statistic that there were 9.7 million acts of sexual intercourse in Sweden in March 1967, but the excerpts from the Schultz-Lorentzen Dictionary of the West Greenland Eskimo Language, 1927, selected by Gunnar Pettersson and Frank Perry.

When first I saw it, I laughed until I feared a passer-by would say: 'Ata, sulorsimavutit] (Well, now you have again relieved yourself in your trousers])' But the exhibition will soon be over, so the Independent has gathered the essential elements together for those readers who will miss the real thing.

The conventions of drawing- room comedy do not well survive translation to Inuit. But it is still possible to construct a mini-saga from the materials to hand.

First comes the invitation to an meal. Qujanaq ('thank-you') says the well-bred guest, and excuses himself - qajara iluarsaratdlardlara - 'let me first arrange my kayak'.

He may be a picky traveller, one who is aipalingiagpoq - 'does not like raw food'. That is all right, the hostess just agssior poq - 'makes soup of dried blood'. This would serve as the necessary nivgornerqutigssag - 'something to take away the taste of fish', even if our hero had rather hoped for a bar of Cadbury's fruit and nut sukulaq instead. He would be lucky to

get a slice of toast spread with sungarnit, the intestines of the ptarmigan.

The hosts' teenage son fidgets throughout the meal. His table manners are appalling. Given his food, he mkagtorpa - 'pulls at it repeatedly with his teeth', until he orssunguvoq - 'feels sick from having eaten too much blubber'.

His doting parents excuse him after he rushes from the table. He is going through a phase in which he is only interested in computer games. In fact, he is a spotty anoraq.

The panik of the house, the anoraq's sister, looks much more fun. The guest makes a bet with himself that she kangunartuliorpoq like mad, given half a chance.

But when he approaches her in the recesses of the igdlo, she putuva - looks at him stiffly so as to make him confused - and snaps that he has arferup anernera, the breath of the whale, and is a dumb qavak ('man from the south. Frequently used to denote stupidity').

He rushes out the door shouting Suingne] - 'How it smells of foxes here]'. He pugtarpoq - leaps from one iceberg to another - until at length he is exhausted. Nigsagpatdlagtoqangilaq - 'not a sound is heard'.

The traveller, now alone in a vast waste of siko and snow, reflects glumly that he always was pingortorpoq - unlucky in throwing the harpoon.

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