I wrote an entry a while back about the words for snow in which I talk about my lack of belief in the saying that Eskimos have hundreds of words for snow.
It turns out that snow isn’t the only thing that people say these sorts of things about. Language Log uses the word “snowclone” to indicate commonly recurring phrases. Cultures that “Have X words for Y” is a snowclone that has been around for a while now, in addition to the “No word for X” category.
These sorts of language follies can have a strong impact and seem to be used for propaganda. Most recently environmentalists are saying that the Intuit have no word for sunburn, but because of global warming, they better learn one. Anyone who has ever been skiing knows the sun gets you twice: once from above and once bouncing off the snow. I highly doubt that the Intuit have no word for sunburn and it makes me wonder what other shoddy research those environmentalists have bandied about.