Anyone who studies a foreign language soon realizes there are words that have no close single- word equivalent in English. Such bons mots are...
Anyone who studies a foreign language soon realizes there are words that have no close single- word equivalent in English. Such bons mots are the focus of “In Other Words: A Language Lover’s Guide to the Most Intriguing Words Around the World” by Christopher J. Moore (Levenger Press/Walker, $14).
Among the choice entries:
Yoko meshi (Japanese): The literal meanings are “horizontal” and “boiled rice,” the looser meaning is “a meal eaten sideways,” and the phrase is used in Japanese to convey “the peculiar stress induced by speaking a foreign language,” according to Moore.
Gezellig (Dutch): A vague adjective that “means anything good, from ‘having a fun time’ to ‘cozy’ to ‘homely.’ Eating oliebollen, which are fried dough balls with raisins, on New Year’s Eve is apparently very gezellig,” Moore notes.
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Janteloven (Danish): A noun “sometimes translated as ‘the tall poppy syndrome,’ ” Moore says, suggesting that if you put yourself on a pedestal, you should be prepared to get knocked off.
Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times book critic