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May 02, 2004

Words we Need in English

Bjorn Staerk writes about a mullah who couldn't take a joke. Go read it, very amusing.
One thing that leapt out at me was a word that Norwegians use and for which we have no direct translation in English, not as a word. There's a number of such things that we simply steal from other languages : schadenfreude ( joy at the disasters of others ) , savoir faire ( not changing one's underpants is stylish ), La Dolce Vita ( pasta, scooters and Anita Ekberg as the sweet life ) and amok ( to go crazy with a machete ).
Bjorn uses one which I think we should immediately adopt as we simply don't have it in English, yet should :

what Norwegians refer to as "jentelus", the mystical and dangerous substance small boys fear will infect them if they're touched by a girl.

May 2, 2004 in Language | Permalink


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A reader told me that an English word equivalent to jentelus is cooties. Feel free to steal jentelus, though, which means literally girl lice.

Posted by: Bjørn Stærk | May 2, 2004 12:12:41 PM

" Cooties " ? More American I think. Not sure, but I think it refers to inadequate use of toilet paper.

Posted by: Tim Worstall | May 2, 2004 12:19:10 PM

No, that's crusty crackers.

"Cooties" are definitely the things elementary school-age boys are afraid of getting from girls.

And don't forget "fixin" as the all purpose action verb.

Posted by: Steve the Llamabutcher | May 2, 2004 1:23:38 PM

OK, maybe I am confusing cooties with clarts ....which would be equivalent to the US crusty crackers. Great phrase BTW.

Posted by: Tim Worstall | May 2, 2004 2:08:43 PM

"Cooties" is not just an American word, but a reality in the southern states. "Cooties" are, in fact, a species of body lice. And small boys don't seem to worry about "boy cooties" only about "girl cooties". So "jentelus" would be right at home in the American version of the English language.

Posted by: Jesse Chisholm | May 2, 2004 4:55:23 PM

When and where I grew up (non-tourist Florida, 60's) cooties weren't gender specific, but more a kind of terminal uncoolness (ofen co-occurring with poverty, general geekiness or a neglected appearance). In other words, boys and girls were equally likely to be cootie carriers.

I suppose you could say "girl cooties" but I don't remember anyone actually saying that.

Posted by: Michael Farris | May 3, 2004 8:35:31 AM

I've also had a number of emails on this subject.....and the general conslusion I'm coming to is that " cooties " and " jentelus " are indeed synomyms, it's just that English English doesn't use " cooties " and so we need to adopt one or the other word. For the idea and fear definately exist, we just have no consice method of expressing it.

Posted by: Tim Worstall | May 3, 2004 9:12:58 AM