Let the Malmaroking Roll! -- Susan Price
One of my favourite words is malmaroking. I learned it decades ago, and loved it for its exactness. I shall probably never be able to use it, since it means ‘the carousing of sailors in ice-bound ships.’ Though I suppose I could write a whole book just to include it. Or maybe just a short story.
It's not the kind of carousing you find outside nightclubs at a weekend, you note. This carousing is done exclusively by sailors – and even if the nightclubs were crammed with drunken sailors, still no malmaroking would be done, because they’d be on land. And merely having a ship load of drunken sailors isn’t enough either, because it has to be an ice-bound ship. Only once ship and rowdy, drunken crew are ice-bound would all the criteria be met, and you could honestly say that malmaroking ensued.
‘Malmaroking’ was originally Dutch, I believe. Presumably, in past times, the Dutch spent a lot of time on board ships in arctic regions and needed the word. Ships well-stocked with, well, gin, I suppose. Though I've always heard that gin makes you miserable rather than leading to malmaroking. Never drink the stuff myself, preferring whisky, so I wouldn't know.
I recently came across an article in the Metro, which, quoting the website So Bad, So Good, listed several foreign words without exact English translations, but with very useful meanings. English has, in the past, been more than hospitable to foreign words, and here are a few more it might be worth taking in…
However, there is one word which I enjoy and which has been around for a while: the allegedly German ‘schadenfreude’. It beautifully encapsulates a certain mean but satisfying pleasure. Thousands of us are looking forward to wallowing in it when Johnson and Cummings get anything approaching the comeuppance they richly deserve. Schadenfreude may, by then, be the only they've thing left us to enjoy.
|"I've got mixed feelings about Brexit but...' (follow link for source)|
The very sound - schadenfreude’- seems to shape itself round the shades of meaning: the sneakiness, the hint of guilty discomfort, and yet the glee.
I congratulated my German friend Ulrike on having such an excellent word in her language -- and found she’d never heard of it. And then I found my Italian friend, Rosa, had never heard of the ciabatta bread sold as 'an old traditional Italian recipe' in my local supermarket.
And I once met an American woman on a plane, who told me she came from Maryland. 'Oh, where the cookies come from!' I said brightly. I don't know whether they're still sold but a favourite biscuit in my childhood was a dark-brown, round, crunchy little item studded with chocolate chips and marketed as 'Maryland Cookies.' My new American friend was at a loss. Born and bred in Maryland, she had never heard of 'Maryland cookies.'
Colour me 'disillusioned.'
It's all made me a little dubious about these ‘foreign’ words. Have the people whose language they are supposed to come from ever actually heard of them or used them?
Perhaps this blog reaches such far-flung shores that someone will let us know…
While we're waiting for that to happen, I'll assume that these words are actually real. One that I, and many other women, could use regularly is age-otori. It means, ‘to look worse after a haircut than you did before’ and is supposed to be Japanese. Do the Japanese suffer even more from haircuts than the rest of us, since they've had to invent a word for it?
People beset with small children might find the Russian word pochemuchka useful – it means ‘a person who asks a lot of questions.’ I well remember being a pochemuchka myself, pursuing Mum and Dad around the house with ‘Why- ? Where- ? When- ? How- ? Who- ?’ My parents eventually broke down and begged me to desist, or at least to take a day off.
‘Tingo’ is from the language spoken on Easter Island, Pascuense, and throws an interesting light on a whole culture. It means, 'to persistently borrow objects from a neighbour’s house until there is nothing left in it.' This suggests an orchestrated plan. There would have to be a frenzy of borrowing, surely, to empty the house before the neighbour caught on and started rudely repulsing would-be borrowers at the door. Why does this frenzy begin? How is the neighbour chosen? Do you start with borrowing small things, like cups of sugar, or go straight for the cookers, lawnmowers and sofas? -- And, writers, here a challenge. Invent the borrower's cover-story.
|Rolls of film - wikimedia|
Let me introduce my final word by telling you about a friend I once had who was into photography long before digital cameras. If we went out somewhere, she would take reels and reels of photos. The rolls of film were cheap enough, but getting them developed at a chemist was expensive. I didn't own a camera then precisely because it was a more expensive hobby than I could afford. I relied on memory.
She didn't think my memory was up to it and offered to send me copies of all the photos she'd taken on a couple of our shared trips. I said it was a kind thought but there was no need. I would never look at them if I had them. I don't have a photo album to my name.
Oh, but I would look at them if I had them, she said.
No, I wouldn't, I said. I really wouldn't. Don't go to the trouble or expense, honestly. I'm not being polite. I'm not kidding. Don't send me any photos.
But she presented me with the photos anyway. Posted them to me, actually. The photos were heavy and the postage costly. And then she asked me to pay for them. And the postage. Despite my having been quite clear, several times, that I didn't want them.
I paid up because, then, I still wanted to keep the friend. I have the photos to this day. And you know what? I never look at them.
What I felt about the whole business is perfectly summed up by the Japanese word arigata-meiwaku, if you can find someone to help you pronounce it. It means the feeling you get when someone does something for you that you didn’t want them to do, and which you tried to dissuade them from, but which they did anyway, thinking they were doing you a favour – and this act of theirs causes you a lot of trouble, annoyance and expense, but you still have to thank them because they meant well.
Can you add any words to this list?