A friend posted a link to a list of 20 words that were not directly translatable into the English language. Most of the words appear to come from Altalang.com, a website that focuses on linguistics and understanding. A few highlights include:
- Ilunga: Tshiluba (Southwest Congo) – A word famous for its untranslatability, most professional translators pinpoint it as the stature of a person “who is ready to forgive and forget any first abuse, tolerate it the second time, but never forgive nor tolerate on the third offense.”
- Tingo: Pascuense (Easter Island) – Hopefully this isn’t a word you’d need often: “the act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them.”
While the initial posts were relatively old, my digging came across a much more interesting column from a year ago that surveys the literature on the word "fair" and if it is translatable into non-English languages. This has some obvious, potential impliciations for game theoretic treatments such as the ultimatum game.