This splendid word is the usual English transliteration of an ancient Hebrew word that translates as ‘The Glory has Departed.’ Words, at least in so far as they are names of concepts, presumably arise from necessity; there is something impressively tragic about a culture that felt the need for one simple word to express the idea of departed glory.
And what of modern Greek, which has many long and difficult words, and in some cases no word at all, for many things that are common currency in Northern European culture, but has one simple two-syllable word — ‘Fola’ — for ‘Poison for killing dogs’? Japanese goes one better, or worse: I have been reliably told that it has a simple verb meaning ‘I try out a new sword on a casual passer-by.’
Let us take an imaginary extreme example — a language that is identical in vocabulary to English except that it contains one extra word — say, ‘Glumph’ — meaning ‘something furry and unidentifiable forgotten right at the back of the ’fridge.’ Surely this would tell us something about the common housekeeping habits of the society?
Can’t think of a suitable picture to illustrate this post, but I do know that you out there love to see pictures on the blog, so here is one of the creature that impeded my use of the computer keyboard all day recently: