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05 March 2012

Colourful answers

Tibetan has a marvellous expression for a phenomenon that pervades politics: Gadrii Nombor Shulen Jongu, which translates as giving a green answer to a blue question.

Gadrii Nombor Shulen Jongu is number five of nine entries in Cracked's list of 9 Foreign Words the English Language Desperately Needs. I found the list through Johnson, the Economist's language blog. Johnson's favourite was number one on the list: pilkunnussija, a Finnish word that does not translate politely, but which means someone who is obsessive about minor details. Johnson says:
Punctuation and other matters of mechanics and usage are certainly important if you want people to take your writing seriously. But to have a pen on hand at all times so you can correct ill-written shop signs is to miss the fascinating forest of language for its most boring trees.

(I haven't linked to Cracked, because their juvenile humour is sometimes expressed in language that may offend - and you might want to stay clear of this particular Johnson post, too. However, if you want to proceed despite the coarse language warning, Johnson does have a link to Cracked.)

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