The 10 Coolest Foreign Words The English Language Needs

#5. Shlimazl (Yiddish)


Somebody who has nothing but bad luck.

Have you ever found yourself at the end of a sequence of events that started with ordering a Big Mac, and ended with being roughly sodomized on national television? Fortunately most people will not experience this. But then there are those that the Yiddish call shlimazl</>, the chronically unlucky.

And yes, we know that half of you are saying, "Ha, that's ME!" but be honest, all of you know at least one guy you wouldn't trade lives with if you were paid millions of dollars to do it. These are the guys you tell sad/hilarious stories to your other friends about.

You know, the guy who got the girl pregnant the first time he had sex, thanks to getting the rare defective condom. The guy whose blind Internet date turns out to be his mother. The dude who gets elected president despite being a career C-student, and within a few years has the worst terrorist attack and worst hurricane in the country's history.

#4. Tatemae and Honne (Japanese)


What you pretend to believe and what you actually believe, respectively.

A whole lot of the angst in the world is due to the difference between what we actually believe, and what we're allowed to admit we believe. We talk about "political correctness" but it goes beyond that. Even if you consider yourself the most politically incorrect, edgy guy around, when grandma asks if you like the sweater, you'll still say "yes" and ensure you get another one next Christmas. When your aspiring artist friend shows you the horrible picture he's spent a year painting, you'll tell him it's good.

The Japanese have just accepted this huge difference between what we mean and what we say, calling them "honne" and "tatemae." The first is reality as you understand it, the second is reality as filtered through what society expects.

The difference is the Japanese don't seem to regard this as something to get pissed off about (they don't recognize one as being more true or honest than the other, but as simply two sides of reality). They have have figured out that it's just the way the world works. Society is built on lukewarm lies, get over it.

#3. Sgiomlaireachd (Scottish Gaelic)


When people interrupt you at meal time.

Hey, don't you just love it when you've just gotten your tacos arranged neatly in front of you when you get a knock at the door? And it's a couple of Mormons? Or maybe a local politician, or some hippie trying to get you to sign a petition?

Most of us have an almost instinctual hatred of that, maybe because our evolutionary ancestors knew an interruption at meal time meant some other predator was looking to take our freshly-killed gazelle from us. Or maybe it's just because burritos don't taste as good when they're cold.

Either way, Scottish Gaelic has a word for rude mealtime interruptions: sgiomlaireachd. We can't begin to imagine how that's pronounced, but literally translated we believe it means, "A visit with less worth to you than even one cold french fry."

#2. Tingo (Pascuense)


To borrow from a friend until he has nothing left.

You know what sucks? Buying stuff. Especially when your friend already has a load of stuff and a generous disposition. Televisions are expensive, and what with the credit crunch looming large over our heads it makes sense to cut down on spending. So why not just borrow your friend's TV, just for a little while...

A week later they arise from the cold hard floor in their bare bedroom in their empty house. Meanwhile, you're getting out of a four-post bed into a silk bathrobe to prepare for a long hard day hitting the jacuzzi.

The Easter Islanders have the word tingo, which means to borrow items one by one from your friend's house until there is nothing left. It's kind of odd that this happens enough there that they need a special word to describe it. We're picturing a whole island full of people living out the Homer Simpson and Ned Flander's relationship.

#1. Desenrascanco (Portuguese)


To pull a MacGyver.

This is the art of slapping together a solution to a problem at the last minute, with no advanced planning, and no resources. It's the coat hanger you use to fish your car keys out of the toilet, the emergency mustache you hastily construct out of pubic hair.

What's interesting about desenrascano (literally "to disentangle" yourself out of a bad situation), the Portuguese word for these last-minute solutions, is what is says about their culture.

Where most of us were taught the Boy Scout slogan "be prepared," and are constantly hassled if we don't plan every little thing ahead, the Portuguese value just the opposite.

Coming up with frantic, last-minute improvisations that somehow work is considered one of the most valued skills there; they even teach it in universities, and in the armed forces. They believe this ability to slap together haphazard solutions has been key to their survival over the centuries.

Don't laugh. At one time they managed to build an empire stretching from Brazil to the Philippines this way.

Fuck preparation. They have desenrascano.

To build your vocabulary even further (face it, you need to), check out 8 Racist Words You Use Every Day and 6 Everyday Words With Disturbing Alternate Meanings.

And check out's Top Picks, which is American--the greatest language ever--for hot, sultry boobies.

Recommended For Your Pleasure

To turn on reply notifications, click here


The Cracked Podcast

Choosing to "Like" Cracked has no side effects, so what's the worst that could happen?

The Weekly Hit List

Sit back... Relax... We'll do all the work.
Get a weekly update on the best at Cracked. Subscribe now!