A lesson in the shortcomings of English from Nobby the auditor’s Elf


STOP PRESS!! Have you tried the YouTube Playlist featuring all of my compositions for the TRANSFORMATES? Here it is:


My apologies to regular readers. I have been a rather quiet recently – unfortunately in the gaps between my African vitamin D sessions I have to work my little socks off to pay the travel bills. January has been no exception but fortunately I do have a little helper (in addition to RISKKO) who provides me with guidance and support. His name is Nobby – and he is what we in the trade refer to as an auditor’s Elf.

While I sit down in serious auditing interviews with unsuspecting ‘victims’ Nobby creeps out of his hiding place, ‘borrows’ the keys from their pockets or brief cases and rummages through their drawers. This is a rather unorthodox approach but we have discovered that we identify a lot more control gaps that way.

Nobby the Elf, through his international travels has developed a level of language capability that would cause pride in even the most intellectual of humans (I do not count auditors in this last category). He is not English (and proudly so) but his knowledge of the English language – or better said its shortcomings – is astounding. Let me give you an example.

Today we were having one of our regular debates about why elves have not adopted English as their default language. Nobby speaks a language which sounds like an asthmatic suffering from excessive Catarrh and whooping-cough: this and his bad breath explains why I do not use him in the face to face interviews (we would have to issue interviewees with face masks). During our debate he pointed out some significant weaknesses with the English language.

Although English is the most widely spoken language in the World (elves excepted), there are a few areas where it falls down. Nobby identified 25 words from other languages that do not exist in English and claimed this gives him a major problem when trying to express himself in public (which he does a lot!). Here they are:

1 Age-otori (Japanese): To look worse after a haircut

2 Arigata-meiwaku (Japanese): An act someone does for you that you didn’t want to have them do and tried to avoid having them do, but they went ahead anyway, determined to do you a favor, and then things went wrong and caused you a lot of trouble, yet in the end social conventions required you to express gratitude

3 Backpfeifengesicht (German): A face badly in need of a fisting

4 Bakku-shan (Japanese): A beautiful girl… as long as she’s being viewed from behind

5 Desenrascanço (Portuguese): “to disentangle” yourself out of a bad situation

6 Duende (Spanish): a climactic show of spirit in a performance or work of art, which might be fulfilled in flamenco dancing, or bull-fighting, etc.

7 Forelsket (Norwegian): The euphoria you experience when you are first falling in love

8 Gigil (pronounced Gheegle; Filipino): The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute (an irrelevant term when referring to Nobby)

9 Guanxi (Mandarin): in traditional Chinese society, you would build up good guanxi by giving gifts to people, taking them to dinner, or doing them a favor, but you can also use up your gianxi by asking for a favor to be repaid

10 Ilunga (Tshiluba, Congo): A person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time

11 L’esprit de l’escalier (French): usually translated as “staircase wit,” is the act of thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late to deliver it

12 Litost (Czech): a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery

13 Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan): A look between two people that suggests an unspoken, shared desire

14 Manja (Malay): “to pamper”, it describes gooey, childlike and coquettish behavior by women designed to elicit sympathy or pampering by men. “His girlfriend is a damn manja. Hearing her speak can cause diabetes.”

15 Meraki (pronounced may-rah-kee; Greek): Doing something with soul, creativity, or love. It’s when you put something of yourself into what you’re doing

16 Nunchi (Korean): the subtle art of listening and gauging another’s mood. In Western culture, nunchi could be described as the concept of emotional intelligence. Knowing what to say or do, or what not to say or do, in a given situation. A socially clumsy person can be described as ‘nunchi eoptta’, meaning “absent of nunchi”

17 Pena ajena (Mexican Spanish): The embarrassment you feel watching someone else’s humiliation

18 Pochemuchka (Russian): a person who asks a lot of questions

19 Schadenfreude (German): the pleasure derived from someone else’s pain (e.g. like being kissed by Nobby the elf!)

20 Sgriob (Gaelic): The itchiness that overcomes the upper lip just before taking a sip of whisky – sometimes refered to as sub-nasal thrush

21 Taarradhin (Arabic): implies a happy solution for everyone, or “I win. You win.” It’s a way of reconciling without anyone losing face. Arabic has no word for “compromise,” in the sense of reaching an arrangement via struggle and disagreement

22 Tatemae and Honne (Japanese): What you pretend to believe and what you actually believe, respectively

23 Tingo (Pascuense language of Easter Island): to borrow objects one by one from a neighbor’s house until there is nothing left

24 Waldeinsamkeit (German): The feeling of being alone in the woods

25 Yoko meshi (Japanese): literally ‘a meal eaten sideways,’ referring to the peculiar stress induced by speaking a foreign language

So if you are ever in a situation where you wish to express yourself in public but can not find the appropriate English words please see if there is a suitable substitute from the list above. If you have any other suggestions for Nobby’s list please let me know using the comments box below.

We must now go back and enjoy some more interviewing fun……

Chris Duggleby (and little Nobby, the auditor’s elf)

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