Figuring out more multilingual mysteries

1. If a Swedish woman describes a man as ‘karlakarl’ should he …
(a) Be offended because she’s suggested he’s effeminate
(b) Be pleased because she’s suggested that he’s all man
(c) Be obedient, because she’s suggested that he’s under her thumb
Answer (b)

2. Kurisumasu keiki is ...
(a) A Japanese word, literally a leftover Christmas cake, meaning: an unmarried woman of 25 or more.
(b) The love-goddess still worshipped by the remaining Mayan tribes of Central America
(c) The Hungarian slang for a sexy girl, also derived from the English word ‘cake,’ perhaps because she’s sweet, rich, and only a little bit nutty.
Answer (a)

3. Gargalacar is ...
(a) A Turkish verb, meaning: to ogle a passer-by
(b) A Portuguese verb, meaning: to drink straight from the bottle
(c) A Tamil noun, meaning: a vehicle whose engine is mis-firing
Answer (b)

4. Nchala-nchala-nchala is ...
(a) A formal salutation among the Bedouin tribes of Arabia, meaning: ‘Welcome, welcome, welcome.’
(b) A crude term used by men of the Karamojong tribe of Uganda, referring to the jiggle of a woman’s breasts.
(c) A phrase employed by the Tsonga people of South Africa to describe a poor swimmer, thrashing about in the water.
Answer (c)

5. The Latvians say, ‘Ej bekot,’ (Go mushrooming), the Spanish prefer, ‘Buscar berros’ (find watercress), the Portuguese suggest, ‘Vai a fava’ (Go to the fava bean), when they all mean the same thing. And it is …
(a) Get lost
(b) Good luck, you’ll need it
(c) Stick to what you know
Answer (a)

6. ‘Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellechaftskapitansjackenkopfloch’ is …
(a) A typically long German word meaning: the brown stain left of a ceiling after water has dripped through a hole in the roof.
(b) A typically long German word meaning: the buttonhole in the jacket of a captain of the Danube steam boat company
(c) A surprisingly long Dutch word meaning: the painful aching in the hand of the boy who stuck his finger in the dyke
Answer (b)

7. ‘Ui mai koe ki ahau he aha tem ea nui o tea o, maku e ki atu he tangata, he tangata, tangata, tangata!’ is …
(a) ‘They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, no, no, no,’ translated into Polynesian.
(b) The seldom performed second verse of the New Zealand All Black rugby team’s legendary ‘haka’ war-chant.
(c) A Maori phrase meaning, ‘Ask me what is the greatest thing in the world and I reply, people, people, people.’
Answer (c)

8. If a brave from the Cheyenne tribe of Native Americans engages in a spot of ‘vovohetahtsenaotse’, is he …
(a) Licking his lips before he speaks
(b) Sharpening his knife before he scalps
(c) Mounting his pony before he rides
Answer (a)

9. If a Mandinka tribesman from West Africa is said to ‘kumoo musu baa,’ does he …
(a) Snatch food from the pot without letting others eat
(b) Jump into conversations without knowing the background
(c) Start fights without first seeking agreement
Answer (b)
9. Ciniweno is …
(a) A Zambian term meaning: something whose name escapes you
(b) A Peruvian term meaning: something straight out of a film
(c) A Moldovan term meaning: a man who sells his daughter to people traffickers
Answer (a)

10. To the Gilbertese people of Oceania, someone who is ‘kimangamanga’ has …
(a) Breath that could strip the husk off a coconut
(b) A ridiculous walk and unattractive backside
(c) An enormous nose and goggling eyes
Answer (b)

11. If a Frenchman claims to be ‘rond comme une bille’ (as round as a marble), and a German is ‘sternhagelvoll’ (full of stars and hail), and a Nepalese is ‘rangi-changi’ (slightly too multi-coloured), are they …
(a) Smooth but untrustworthy
(b) Bad boyfriend material
(c) Drunk
Answer (c)

12. When a Venezuelan says he’s, ‘Mas limpio que sobaco de rana,’ is he …
(a) Limper than an old wool sock, meaning: exhausted
(b) Cleaner than a frog’s armpit, meaning: broke
(c) More limpid (still) than a mountain lake, meaning: calm
Answer (b)

13. A woman who is prijestolonaslijednicovica is …
(a) A Croatian lady, whose husband is heir to the throne
(b) A Polish lady, suffering from a severe hormonal disturbance
(c) A Slovakian lady, who has attained a senior rank in that country’s judicial system
Answer (a)

14. ‘Pestpokkenweer’ is something with which the British can sympathise with because …
(a) It’s a Dutch phrase meaning: dirty rotten weather
(b) It’s German slang for: intrusive government inspectors
(c) It’s the Danish term for: clothes worn by annoying youths
Answer (a)
(Adam Jacot de Boinod is the author of The Meaning of Tingo and other Extraordinary Words from around the World by Penguin Books)

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