panjomin (panjomin) wrote in linguaphiles,

No-context contest

Last one!

I know it’s the lowest form of linguaphile entertainment, but I can’t resist.  What is the oddest entry you’ve seen in a bilingual dictionary?  I just came across the following in Aquilina’s Maltese-English:

sardan, 2.  also bencel, to carry children making much fuss about the inconvenience of having to do so.  issardan [the passive]:  To have its clothes untidy and disordered (said of a baby handled by different persons).

It seems that every language should have a word like this, but sadly not even the Maltese use this one (or its synonym) any more. 

Another way to play this game is with words you’ve actually heard someone use.  There my candidate would be either raffāṣah, the Egyptian Arabic word for “wet scrap of newspaper used as a temporary cover for the smoke-hole of a homemade water pipe”; or Abendrot, the German for “reddish color of the sky at sunset.” 

And yes, I realize this is just a translation problem, not a matter of intrinsic oddness.  To reverse it, I imagine that an English word like “fungo” (a baseball tossed into the air and hit by the same player to let other players practice catching fly balls) sounds pretty funny too.

Your turn!

Tags: arabic, dictionaries, german, maltese, semantics, vocabulary
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