How many words in the English language? Not enough, obviously
Rather as China is to the rest of the world in population, English is in the population of its words. (Stephen Fry)
How many words are there in the English language?
Actually, do you know what? The internet is awash with people (mostly copywriters) bickering about abbreviations, conjunctions and the 645 meanings of the word “run”. In short, it’s impossible to be accurate, so let’s just say this:
English has a shedload of words. After all, we’ve spent the last couple of millennia cheerfully nicking them off other nations.
But hey, we could always use a few more.
Here’s a list of 15 words that will make you happy. Some are elegantly precise ways to describe universal human truths. Others are simply beautiful.
15 words that will make you happy
Akihi (Hawaiian) – The forgetfulness felt immediately after being given directions.
Iktsuarpok (Innuit) – The feeling of anticipation before guests arrive, leading to repeatedly going outside to check if anyone’s coming round the corner.
Cryptoscopophilia (English) – The irresistible urge to look into the windows of houses as you walk past them.
Boketto (Japanese) – Gazing vacantly into the distance, thinking about nothing in particular.
Kummerspeck (German) – Literally “grief bacon”. It describes the excess weight gained from emotional over-eating.
Tartle (Scottish) – The panicky hesitation just before introducing someone whose name you can’t remember.
Fudgeling (English) – Pretending to work when you’re not actually doing anything at all.
Ubuntu (Ngali) – Notoriously difficult to translate into English because it describes an entire philosophy of human kindness. Desmond Tutu neatly defined it as “I am because we are”, the self-assurance that comes with belonging to a greater whole.
Whindle (English) – A fake groan.
Rimjhim (Hindi) – The gentle, comforting sound of rain. The nearest translation is “female rain”.
Jayus (Indonesian) – An unfunny joke told so badly that you can’t help laughing.
Voorpret (Dutch) – Literally “pre-fun”. The pleasurable sense of excitement before a special event.
Sobremesa (Spanish) – The time after lunch or dinner spent chatting to the people with whom you shared the meal.
Mamihlaptinatapai (Yaghan) – A wordless look between two people who both desire the same thing, but are equally reluctant to make the first move.
Nakakapagpagababab (Tagalog) – Bothersome. Admittedly, it looks as though I’ve fallen asleep on the keyboard – and it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. But try saying it without a massive grin on your face.
I hope those 15 words have brightened up your day. While some (whindle, for example) are easy to drop casually into a conversation, others may be more nakakapagpagababab.
What about you? Do you have a favourite underused yet beautiful word that deserves recognition? Tell me about it in the comments below. I’ll try and include it in my next blog.