Adam Jacot de Boinod

Adam Jacot de Boinod is the author of The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words from around the World, published by Penguin Books and the creator of Tingo, an iphone App quiz on interesting words.

„My interest in the wonderful world of vocabulary was triggered when one day, working as a researcher for the first series of QI, the BBC programme hosted by Stephen Fry, I picked up a weighty Albanian dictionary to discover that they have no less than 27 words for eyebrow and the same number for different types of moustache. What a wonderful treasure trove of cultural examples I thought lay in the dictionaries of the world’s languages. 
My curiosity soon became a passion. I was unable to go near a bookshop or library without sniffing out the dusty shelf where the foreign language dictionaries were kept. I started to collect favourites: nakhur, for example, a Persian word meaning ‘a camel that gives no milk until her nostrils are tickled’; Many described strange or unbelievable things. How, when and where, for example, would a man be described as a marilopotes, the Ancient Greek for ‘a gulper of coaldust’? 

The meaning of Tingo
by Adam Jacot de Boinod 
In the end my passion became an obsession. I combed over two million words in countless dictionaries. I trawled the Internet, phoned Embassies, and tracked down foreign language speakers who could confirm my findings. I found beautiful words to describe things for which we have no concise expression, like serein, the French for ‘the rain that falls from a cloudless sky’. 

I looked at languages from all corners of the world, from the Fuegian of southernmost Chile to the Inuit of northernmost Alaska, from the Maori of the remote Cook Islands to Siberian Yakut. Some of them describe, of course, strictly local concepts and sensations but others reinforce the commonality of human experience. Haven’t we all known Czech nedovtipa, ‘one who finds it difficult to take a hint’.”

Adam Jacot de Boinod was a researcher for the first BBC television series QI, hosted by Stephen Fry. He wrote The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words from around the World, published by Penguin Books and created the App Tingo, an iPhone Game about Interesting Words.