Thursday, January 22, 2015

Living in New Mexico and then in the region of Urfa in Upper Mesopotamia, I have often wished for a word meaning "chilli pepper that is anomalously much, much much hotter than other chilli peppers of the same batch". How convenient it would be to mouth this word indistinctly in order to express one's distress and signal others to pass the ayran or the yoghurt.
Recently there has been a flurry of fluffy internet articles with titles like "Untranslatable Words From Around The World". I just sigh when I read such headlines and apotropaically invoke the mantra transmitted to me from my master's master, Roman Jakobson, "Languages differ not so much in what they can say but in what they must say". However, I will grant that these articles have taught me some delightful words that I wish had a concise equivalent in English--for instance, terms for the pathlike reflection of the moon on the surface of a body of water, like Swedish mångata and Turkish yakamoz and its Greek etymon, διακαμός. But does anyone know a language (or a regional variety of English) that satisfies the (literally) crying need for a word meaning "chilli pepper much hotter than expected"?