The Guardian has published a list of interesting words in other languages.
Did you know there is a word in Portuguese for someone who shows up at wakes to get free food? Or that there is a word in Arabic for the sound earrings make as you walk?
Douglas Adams and John Lloyd produced a book called The Meaning Of Liff, which should be on everyone's bedside table. The premise is simple - in life, there are many concepts which are familiar to all of us, but we don't have words for them (someone who shows up at wakes and funerals to get free food, for example). And yet our maps are scattered with words that are barely being used. The Meaning Of Liff was an attempt to marry the two.
It's full of definitions for things and experiences that we are all familiar with, including a whole section on corridor etiquette. You know when you're walking down a very long corridor towards someone you recognise and you both try not to acknowledge each other too early - but it sometimes goes horribly wrong? That has a name. So does every possible way of handling it. There is a name for the bristle that sticks out at a 90 degree angle to a cheap paintbrush and the ex-girlfriend you have almost completely forgotten about, but that drives your wife inexplicably mad with jealousy.
That's often a mark of good writing - the ability to pinpoint and express something universal that hasn't become a cliche yet. There is a line from A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley that I've always loved: 'The evening lay before me, and all I had to do was receive it.' I recognised that feeling when I read that line, and it was that recognition that made me love the scene.
For my part, I feel there should be a word for that sense of anticipation and possibility that one gets when one sees a large display of stationery, knitting wool, fabric, paper, musical instruments or art supplies - the feeling that in spite of my total ineptitude with any of the above, the mere sight of their existence is enough to inspire me to do something great with them.
Or is that one just me? :p