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This is a word in Mongolian: нэрэлх

So you'd use the word like "Ид ид, битгий нэрэлх", essentially meaning, "Please eat, don't be shy to eat".

Shy to eat seems a bit weird, can anyone recommend a similar word or concept in English?

  • When I pasted your word into Google and asked for a translation from Mongolian I was given the English translation 'distill'. Does that make sense ? – Nigel J Jan 4 at 9:59
  • No, that's another unrelated term that has the same spelling. It just means to distill stuff chemically. – chintogtokh Jan 4 at 10:00
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    If I interpreted your question correctly, there is a Chinese word for this too. The closest English words I can think of are civility, ceremony (stand on ceremony), etiquette. – Jalene Jan 4 at 11:47
  • @Jalene What is the Chinese word? – chintogtokh Jan 5 at 7:49
  • @chintogtokh 客气 Kèqì。the person is being 客气 for not tucking in. The host will say 不要客气 which is almost similar to don't stand on ceremony. However, the word ceremony makes it sound rather elaborated and formal. – Jalene Jan 5 at 9:35
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Since being polite in the West would mean that you should accept whatever food you're offered, the exact opposite happens and people end up eating a meal that they don't like out of politeness! Hence, I don't think there's an exact equivalent for this in English.

The closest word I can think of is coy (adj. someone who pretends not to want something).

There's also the literary term accismus, which is a form of irony in which a person feigns a lack of interest in something that he or she actually desires.

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One finds usages such as this from Shimmer, by B.J. Robertson, page 25:

Now you eat. I do not stand on formality.

Or this from Faith, by Donald Eaton, page 97:

Eat up. We do not stand on formality here.

As Jalene commented above, 'stand on ceremony' is also possible (e.g. in Just Maagy by Virginia Stringer, page 19.)

The girl is hungry and we have breakfast ready. Let's not stand on ceremony. Come in! Let's eat!

Also it's not wrong to use the word 'shy' in this situation. For example, here's an indirect use from the novel The Cheetah Chase by Karin McQuillan (1995), page 127:

The princess picked out a date with her long red-enamelled fingernails and popped it into her mouth. "Please, eat." I was famished and didn't need a further invitation. Wynn wasn't shy, either.

In Indian English, it's fairly common to say something like "There is no formality, please eat."

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You’ve actually got the basics, but the wording is a bit off...

Eat up, don’t be shy!

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