Toujours Tingo – words that don’t exist in English

By on December 23, 2008

Toujours Tingo, by  Adam Jacot de Boinod is a collection of words and phrases from over 300 foreign languages for which there is no direct counterpart in English.

The “tingo” in the title is an Easter Island word, which means to borrow objects from a friend’s house one by one until there are none left.

Some of my favourite examples from Adam’s collection are the German ones: “Tantenverführer” – a young man with suspiciously good manners, literally, an aunt seducer; and “Trennungsagentur” – someone hired by a woman to tell her boyfriend he has been dumped.

One word that may not have a British English equivalent is “Layogenic” – Filipino for someone good-looking from afar but ugly up close, but there is an American slang expression for this that is certainly used in California: “A full-on Monet” (as used by Alicia Silverstone’s character Cher in the film Clueless.)

Here are some other beautifully descriptive, often hilarious examples:

Gwarlingo: Welsh description of the sound of a grandfather clock before it strikes.


Pisan zapra: Malay for the time needed to eat a banana.

Mouton enragé : French for someone calm who loses their temper – literally, “an enraged sheep”.

Kati-kehari: Hindi meaning to have the waist of an elegant lion.

Yupienalle: Swedish for a mobile phone – literally, “yuppie teddy” like a security blanket.

Ikibari: Japanese, a “lively needle” and describing a man who is willing but under-endowed.

Fensterln: German for climbing through a window to avoid someone’s parents so you can have sex without them knowing.

Stroitel: Russian for a man who likes to have sex with two women at the same time.

Okuri-okami: Japanese for a man who feigns thoughtfulness by offering to see a girl home only to try to molest her once he gets in the door – literally, a “see-you-home wolf”

Momma ko ene: Cheyenne for having red eyes from crying over your boyfriend marrying someone else.

Kanjus Makkhichus: Hindi description of someone so tight that if a fly falls into their tea they’ll fish it out and suck it dry before throwing it away.

Tlazlimquiztli: Aztec for the smell of adulterers.

Nosom Para Oblake: Serbian for “he is ripping clouds with his nose”, describing someone conceited.

Traer la lengua de corbata: Latin American Spanish for to be exhausted – literally, to have your tongue hanging out like a man’s tie

Sjostygg: Norwegian for someone so ugly the tide refuses to come in if they stand on the shore.

Lolo: Hawaiian for someone who would gladly give you the time if only they could read a clock.

Lalew: Filipino word meaning to grieve so much you can’t eat.

Nito-onna: Japanese for a woman so dedicated to her career that she has no time to iron blouses and so resorts to dressing only in knitted tops.

Buaya darat: Indonesian for a man who fools women into thinking he’s a very faithful lover when in fact he goes out with many different women at the same time – literally, a land crocodile

Chantepleurer: French for singing at the same time as crying.

Hira hira: Japanese for the fear you get from walking into a decrepit old house in the middle of the night.

Les avoir à zéro: French for “to have one’s testicles down to zero”, or be frightened.

Du kannst mir gern den Buckel runterrutschen und mit der Zunge bremsen: Austrian for “go to hell” – literally “You can slide down my hunchback using your tongue as a brake”.

This book looks set to be a hit this winter – it’ll certainly be a late addition to my Christmas list!


Um…sounds great, and certainly good for a laugh, but I’m a little suspicious —
‘Stroitel’ in Russian is builder/construction worker…yes, I’m sure most love to have sex with two partners at the same time…

Also, from an review:

“I can only repeat what I wrote on the first book: “Based on the fact that most expressions from my own language, German, were either very rare or completely new to me, and often inexplicably misspelled, I suspect similar problems in the entries for other languages. After all, the German entries suggest that the author is either careless, or inept, or simply misinformed…”

…maybe even a better gift that you thought for language lovers! (What translator wouldn’t love to have a go at feeling superior in front of their friends and family during the holidays 😉

Chacher on Dec 25, 2008 at 9:58 am

In Hawaiian and other Polynesian Languages (Also Japanese if I’m not mistaken?), there is a distinction between keia (here, by me), kena (there, by you the speaker), and kela (there, by neither of us). Also, in Hawaiian and other Polynesian Languages there is a tense for two people… Laua (Those two), Kaua (We two), and Maua (We two, excluding the person you are speaking to) with the same in the next tense having three or more Lakou, Kakou, Makou… and Kou (My) and Ku’u (My; something close to you, something you cannot change, or something that is fate). Hawai’i being a wet place… there are also hundreds of words for mist, fog and rain! :p

Lihau on Aug 10, 2009 at 7:33 pm

nice blog post about this subject. this makes me ask a question though, so i dont really understand the relation of this topic and your entire blog. it just doesnt fit in. But nontheless i found it very readable. Cheers, Rizwan

Watch Hindi Movies on Mar 24, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Amazing, that was really very good material. Thank you for the wonderful information. Will probably be back again next week to find out if there might be any other updates.

Avery Action Movies Lover on Apr 08, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Mahlzeit , wircklich spannenden Weblog schreibst du . Ich selber hab schon länger eine eigene Website gebastelt, nähmlich eine Such-Maschine. Gerade noch zu finden durch Fände ich schön wenn du mir sendest ob du sie gut findest oder was noch verbesserbar an der Seite ist. Ein Designer kommt erst im Laufe des Monats hinzu. Servus – 345zhf4

Erwin on May 04, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Very handy place of duty. Bookmarked. Credit on behalf of it!

Traditional Chinese Herbs on Jun 14, 2010 at 3:11 pm

The detail is very thorough. It engages in a broad field of ideas. Thank you for giving me a chance to see things the way you do.

extenze on Aug 15, 2010 at 7:02 pm

@Lihau: I’m from Croatia and we also have different meaning for tu(here, next to me), ovdje(here, next to you) and ondje( there, far away from us both). Just so you know:)

Nosom para oblake – it’s Serbian and Croatian. It means exactly the same, our languages are very similar they just write more like they speak.

I really loved this post. I speak 7 languages and I’m really delighted with this!:D


Dede on Feb 07, 2011 at 5:55 pm

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Soila Amolsch on May 07, 2011 at 4:13 am

Good day! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this website? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be fantastic if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

Clement Tolly on May 12, 2011 at 12:48 am

@Soila – thanks for your comment. I’m glad you enjoy reading our blog.
We’ve been nominated for the “Top 100 language lovers 2011” list of language blogs – voting opens soon, so keep an eye out for more details.

admin on May 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm

@Clement – We do use WordPress for the blog. Have you upgraded to the latest version? Apparently it’s important to do that, as improvements are being made all the time to make it more secure.

admin on May 13, 2011 at 2:17 pm

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