Languages from other parts of our planet have a way of showcasing the different ways that human beings perceive the world around them. For example, it is said that the Inuit people have over 100 words for “snow”. Americans have no need for this many descriptions of snow, and therefore has never needed to create them. When translating words from foreign languages into English, the results can also take a comedic turn. Here are the 10 funniest foreign words with entertaining definitions!
This German word, when translated, means “tooth meat”. Americans on the other hand prefer to use the word “gums”. This is a pretty unsavory way to think of your gums, though the Germans don’t seem to mind. Dentists all over the country will be happy to inspect your tooth meat for the overall benefit of your mouth’s health.
In South Africa, the spoken language of Afrikaans has an interesting take on cotton candy. Spookasem is defined as “ghost breath”. It does seem like an accurate, even poetic, description. Hopefully thinking of their carnival treat as being derived from scary ghosts doesn’t have an adverse effect on the children!
Stinktier, when translated literally, means “stink animal” – and it isn’t hard to guess which creature from the animal kingdom holds this title. Skunks, of course, are the unlucky recipients in Germany, where this word is commonly used.
This word is spoken in Sanskrit, an ancient language from India. It literally means “a desire for cattle”, and is one of their many words for “war”. It is a reference that dates back to the early Aryans, and their tendency to begin wars with the aborigines for the purpose of obtaining their cattle. Used for their milk and their meat, cattle were a valuable commodity that they were willing to kill and die for in ancient times.
6. Papier Vampier
Another word from the Afrikaans language that deserves a giggle is “papier vampier”, which translates to “paper vampire”. This cute word for stapler obviously references the similarities between a vampire’s fangs and the two-pronged metal staple.
5. Dedos Do Pe
This word, meaning “toes”, is literally defined as “foot fingers”. It doesn’t take much brainpower to see why this definition actually makes a lot of sense. While this is how the Portuguese have decided to refer to toes, similar definitions can be found in several other languages including Arabic and French.
4. Syut Gwaih
Thinking of a refrigerator as a “snow cupboard” isn’t much of a stretch, which is why the Chinese people who speak Cantonese have decided to name it as such. Perhaps there was a time when they actually used snow and a cupboard to preserve their food – the world will never know. Either way, snow cupboards occupy homes mostly in Hong Kong, where the term is most widely used.
3. Chuột túi
This Vietnamese term for kangaroos translates in English to “rat pocket”. Well known for carrying it’s babies in a fur-lined pocket, it makes perfect sense that this description came to be known. Not to mention, the marsupials do have a likeness to rats, after all.
This German word means “naked snail”. What is a nail without it’s shell? A slug of course, making this a perfect description. Slugs are a nuisance in any backyard, so perhaps the term poking fun at them is a well deserved consequence.
This term, used to describe one who dabbles in public urination, literally translates to a “wild-pee-er”. Some think this may make the unlawful and unsanitary act sound like a whimsical hobby, but the word is an accepted part of the German language.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of foreign words that have quirks and oddities we might not fully understand. Our different environments and experiences have shaped each nation’s traditions, lifestyles, and ultimately their languages. Luckily, humor sees no borders and is a common trait that all humans share, as proven by this list.