In Other Words

On the weekend I bought the most wonderful book by Christopher J. Moore, called “In Other Words”. It’s a list of words and phrases in various languages that are untranslatable in their full meaning. There are so many great entries including:

yoko meshi [yoh-koh mesh-ee] (noun)

“As an untranslatable, this one ranks high on my list of favorites. I could not improve on the background given by commentator Boye Lafayette de Mente about this beautiful word, yoko meshi. Taken literally, meshi means ‘boiled rice’ and yoko means ‘horizontal,’ so combined you get ‘a meal eaten sideways.’This is how the Japanese define the peculiar stress induced by speaking a foreign language: yoko is a humorous reference to the fact that Japanese is normally written vertically, whereas most foreign languages are written horizontally. How do English-speakers describe the headache of communicating in an alien tongue? I don’t think we can, at least not with as much ease.”

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