These fabulous examples have been collected by author Adam Jacot de Boinod into The Meaning Of Tingo – a collection of words and phrases from around the world.
Hawaiians, for instance, have 108 words for sweet potato, 65 for fishing nets – and 47 for banana.
Albanians have 27 separate expressions for the moustache:-
Madh means a bushy moustache, posht is a moustache hanging down at the ends and fshes is a long broom-like moustache with bristly hairs.
Eyebrows also get a look in – Vetullkalem describes pencil-thin eyebrows, vetullperpjekur are joined together eyebrows and those arched like the crescent moon are vetullhen.
Kummerspeck is a German word which literally means grief bacon: it is the word that describes the excess weight gained from emotion-related overeating.
A Putzfimmel is a mania for cleaning and Drachenfutter – literally translated as dragon fodder – are the peace offerings made by guilty husbands to their wives.
Die beleidigte Leberwurst spielen – to stick one’s lower lip out in a sulk (literally, to play the insulted liver sausage).
A Backpfeifengesicht – a face that cries out for a fist in it.
The word uitwaaien is Dutch for walking in windy weather for fun.
The Maori-speakers of the Cook Islands sound like an enthusiastic bunch: the word toto is the shout given in a game of hide-and-seek to show readiness.
The Inuit word igunaujannguaq, literally meaning frozen walrus carcass. Is a game which involves the person in the centre of a ring trying to remain stiff as he is passed around the ring, hand over hand.
In the Netherlands plimpplampplettere means skimming stones.
Geshtenjapjeks is an Albanian who sells roast chestnuts on the street.
A koshatnik in Russian is a dealer of stolen cats.
A kualanapuhi is a Hawaiian officer who keeps the flies away from the sleeping king by waving a brush made of feathers.
In Turkey a cigerci is a seller of liver and lungs.
Danish have a fyrassistent – an assistant lighthouse keeper.
Spanish speakers in central America have a description of a government employee who only shows up on payday – an aviador.
Which brings us back to de Boinod’s title: tingo is an invaluable word from the Pascuense language of Easter Island meaning “to borrow objects from a friend’s house, one by one, until there’s nothing left”.
The Meaning of Tingo by Adam Jacot de Boinod is published by Penguin.