Not sure of its accuracy, but this article
is fun. Here's most of the text.
1. "My favourite is the French 'l'esprit d'escalier', or spirit of the staircase. This is used to describe the precise moment a person comes up with a clever retort to an embarrassing insult. It is usually after leaving the party, and walking down the stairs that the quip comes to mind."
Lee, Wellington, New Zealand
2. "In Chinese if you tell a man they 'dai Lu maozi', meaning 'he wears the green hat', it means that his wife is sleeping with someone else."
Zac Teehan, Fredericton
3. "It's weird that English doesn't have words for 'vorgestern' (the day before yesterday) and 'ubermorgen' (the day after tomorrow)."
4. "I think my favourite word, and not for its literal meaning, is the Spanish 'puente' meaning bridge. Unlike ourselves, they cleverly place their bank holidays on a Tuesday so that Monday will, on most occasions, be treated as a bridge day (an extra day of holiday) ensuring a four day weekend. Ah, the Mediterranean lifestyle..."
Gary Walker, Barcelona
5. "My favourite is 'faire du leche-vitrines' which literally means 'to lick the windows' and translates as window-shopping.
Phil, in France
6. "I have a soft spot for the German 'luftkissenfahrzeug'. The literal translation being 'air cushion vehicle', but to you and I it is the simple 'hovercraft'."
Jude , Birmingham, UK
7. "In Cyprus, the instrument used to remove staples from paper is termed a 'petalouda', literally translated into 'butterfly'. Go figure."
Jasmine, Nicosia, Cyprus
8. "In Japanese, 'amakudari', literally descent from heaven, describes the phenomenon of being employed by a firm in an industry one has previously, as a government bureaucrat, been involved in regulating."
Jack L. Yohay, Nabari, Mie-ken, Japan
9. "My favourite is the Spanish for handcuffs...'esposas'...mi esposa means 'my wife'. So 'mi esposa, mis esposas' means 'my wife, my handcuffs'."
Ben, Bristol, UK
10. "In Arabic an electrical plug adapter that allows more than one plug to be plugged into the same socket is known as a 'harami', literally a thief."
11. "There are a few more interesting German words such as 'handschuhschneeballwerfer', which means somebody, who wears gloves to throw snow balls. It is used in general for all cowards."
12. "In Romania 'pune-ti pofta-n cui' (literally - hang your craving in a nail on the wall) means to forget about getting something."
Gabriel, Bucharest, Romania
13. "In Japan we call a balding man's comb over a 'bar code'."
14. "The Fuegians (from Tierra del Fuego) have a succinct word - 'mamihlapinatapai' and it means 'two people looking at each other each hoping the other will do what both desire but neither is willing to do'."
Zephyrus, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
15. "So far as I'm aware, no other language has anything equivalent to the Icelandic 'setja upp gestaspjot', a verbal phrase denoting the action taken by a cat when cleaning itself, with its body curled tightly in a circle and one back leg sticking directly up in the air. Literally it means 'put up a guest-spear' and when a cat was seen doing this it was supposed to indicate that visitors would be turning up."
Nicholas Jones, Cambridge, England
(OMG I am moving to Iceland based solely on the existance of that word.)
16. "I'm a student of the Ubykh language, which has a word - 'qaamch'ip'q'i' - that means 'a filigree metal ornament on the handle of a whip'. It's also an idiomatic term for someone whose good or kind outward appearance is deceptive."
Rohan Fenwick, Brisbane, Australia
17. "My favourite used to regularly appear on Austrian traffic reports - 'geisterfahrer' or 'ghost driver' - one travelling the wrong way up an autobahn."
Eric Pritchard, Clevedon, UK
18. "In Venezuela we have 'culebra', literally snake, but meaning a long, morbid, sentimental soap opera. 'My wife is watching the snake,' means that she is watching the soap opera."
Ivan, Caracas, Venezuela
19. "From Flemish: 'iets door de vingers kijken', literally it means looking at something through the fingers, allowing something illegal or incorrect to happen by conscious inaction."
Wouter Vandersypen, Washington DC
20. "As a native German one of my all-time favourites is the word 'gemutlich' - impossible to translate directly."
Jessica, Nottingham, UK