of no fixed subtitle
June 09, 2005
seriously looking for words unique to a language that express ideas unexpressed in Standard US English:
such as etsi or ennui or etc.
15 years ago
that was suppose to say
give me your word
ok, which did what where? title wha?
German's good for a bunch of these.
define the last two please? *over typed as it is*
wait, is this the type of thing you were asking for? it's 5 am and i'm easily confused
"The Weltanschauung of a people originates from the unique world experience of a people, which they experience over several millennia." I fucking love this word. Plus it uses the letter "u" twice in a row. What's not to like?
ok, i've lost it. back to bed.
it is, thanks. i'd like to see how many people can come up with, with definitions, please. this is
too but not as shiny
--hmm, why is that so familiar? this is gonna bug me--
Shame no longer has any meaning to a large segment of the US population. That and responsibility. On a non-sarcastic note, I submit the Japanese
"Tatemae" and "Honne".
tatemae: thank you, very nice honne: my only pure defense in claiming US citizenship is the constitutional right to comedy
surly: i will overlook the y of the i just because you've prompted me to do the devo acoustic version of jocko homo as my first online recording project
Zeitgeist. Uhrwurm. Esprit de l'escalier.
The Chinese word 义 (yi4, Simplified Form) is very difficult to tranlate. It is often translated as loyalty (忠 zhong1), friendship between comrades (友 you3), or righteous conduct (礼 li3), but none of these really encapsulate the actual meaning.
In Swedish, "lagom", which kind of means "not too much and not too little", but it doesn't really translate into any other language that I know of.
Chutzpah Overblominate Niplodastic Contiflication Debunknifier Ouroboratic Glunk Contrapodular Muddler Recantinate
Pathos and bathos, too. Ooh, and Scots words courtesy of Hugh MacDairmid: two of my favourites are watergaw (watery, faint rainbow) and yow-trummle (damp season just before the sheep are to be sheared, if I remember correctly).
And I also found an
on the same subject.
Okay, I totally made up some of mine, but I'm not saying which.
One of my favourite Italian words is the transitive verb
. [sometimes spelled with a single n, also.] I love that the Italians have one word that means "to make someone fall in love." If you
someone succcessfully, they become your
which is also downright cool.
gwyddon: would "grit" be an English translation of sisu?
There is no such thing as "Standard US English". Your request is moreover unsatisfiable, or we'd have no multilingual dictionaries. If you want words from language X that don't have an exact equivalent word in language Y, in every shade of meaning, then nearly every word of X would work. Thirdly, words such as ennui and schadenfreude are now (borrowed) English words. Which American high-schooler doesn't know them?
aren't, but that's because English borrows more freely from Indo-European languages than from Japanese. (Plus there's no pressing need-- we have "official position" and "true intentions" akready.)
The Dutch "
" springs to mind. I have not found a way to express that word with all it's vibes and properties in an English word. (
By the way, there is no English equivalent for the Typo word
Blaise: welll.. it isn't enough to have grit - you have to want to succeed a lot and be steadfastly insistent on it.. I checked a dictionary and its rather weak attempts were "never-say-die attitude" and "bulldog spirit".. Thinking some more, I came up with the welsh word "Hiraeth" - which roughly means intense longing for some place or time.. nostalgia is a too mild word compared with hiraeth. Homesickness is maybe closer but hiraeth is still more intense. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that it is often used in poems..
(Plus there's no pressing need-- we have "official position" and "true intentions" already.)
We may have "official position" and "true intentions", in the US (and the rest of the world) but they carry nowhere near the same cultural weight. I've noticed this is changing in more recent times, but I still think it's relevant.
Sure, no argument there. Culture does not translate well. I would claim this is
culture is not purely linguistic, Sapir-Whorf notwithstanding.
Hmmm... not current in American English... What about "accountability"? Or seriously, "
", and "
Yiddish is full of these gems, many though not all of a derogatory nature: maven, shlemiel, nebbish, yenta, momzer...the list goes on and on. It is precisely because these words are untranslatable that I don't offer a translation, and why English has absorbed them so happily, but you can find an entertaining discussion of the subject in Leo Rosten's
The Joys of Yiddish
I swear we already had a thread about
The world's most difficult word to translate
, but I can't find it. ("ilunga") German also gives us
(Earworm) and the very hard to translate (and my personal favorite)
In Wolof (mostly spoken in Senegal), the verb "leppiko" means "to sow seeds on the borderline between your field and a neighbor's before he can, in order to extract an extra row of crops" Also, your "inna" is that little wrinkle that forms on the pinkie side of your palm when you curl your hand over.
...it uses the letter "u" twice in a row. What's not to like?
So does "vacuum", and that's an abhorence. :D
And then there are those
Eskimo words for snow
, which haven't made it into English, I guess, because English speakers don't feel a need to describe snow in minute detail.
"Loens". Dutch word for being slightly cross-eyed, but in a very sexy way. Pronounced "loonse". It's precisely because North Americans don't usually view being cross-eyed as sexy that we don't have an English equivalent. Think of a young Bernadette Peters (which I try to do as often as I can), or a young Karen Black (as opposed to an old Karen Black, which is best avoided).
I agree with wanderingstan, I'm certain there has been a thread on this before, it came from a list of the ten most difficult to translate words that came from a UK publication. Don't know where though. On a more relevant note, do some words still count as not being English, i was thinking of Schadenfreude specifically, this has been effectively adopted into English, and has bene used in the same way that the Germans used it for over a century, just as many other words from other languages have passed into English. For all intents and purposes these words are now English as well as the language from which they came. You can make the same case for zeitgeist and others on this list.
It can be translated, but the word "chua" in vietnamese is wonderful for its brevity. It can generally be translated as "not yet (but I intend to do same in the future)" It's a very useful single word to express a precise idea. (though the word can also be used to mean "no" in polite situations where saying "no" would be considered too harsh)
There's also the Scottish word "banter" which pretty much, as far as I can tell (being new to the country) is somewhere between "stuff" and "the hell of it". If something's enjoyable, it's good banter. If you did something, and you're not sure why, you did it for the banter. Could possibly be two meanings for the word, but I think they're linked, in some way that I can't quite put words to.
There's also a nice Russian word, "Rosbliuto" or "Rasbliuto". It refers to the feeling one has for someone who was once loved by them, but is no longer.
Umami, the taste of thickness. Angst. Dasein. A little je nais se qua? All perfectly cromulent.
There's a lake called "Chargoggaggoggmanchaugagoggchaubunagungamaug," which is a Native American word. Due to a joke people took seriously, it was for a long time believed to mean "You fish on that side, I'll fish on this side, and nobody fish in the middle." Apparently it actually means "The fishing place at the boundaries and neutral meeting grounds."
Oh, and ombudsman and genre are used in American English.
*paging languagehat, languagehat to this thread please.*
hey where's lang been lately anyway?
Zaftig. English doesn't really have an equivalent, perhaps because we don't find zaftig-ness (zaftigheit?) sexy. As for crossed eyes, the Romans considered them sexy, and sometimes depicted Aphrodite with slightly crossed eyes.
Another tricky one to get in English form Chinese is 江湖 (jiang1 hu2) - the characters literally mean 'river and lakes' but the phrase referred to the semi-underground world of vagabonds, wastrels and kung-fu wanderers in a way that our 'underworld' doesn't quite cut. Still current in a more figurative sense. Actually, translating Chinese for a living I find the bastard language is full of tricky concepts that have no easy English equivalents :(. Isn't the Welsh word 'hwyl' also supposed to be a uniquie concept, hence we borrow it? That's usually the best trick with these things. If you can'y beat 'em, pinch their words.
Danish "jo", which means "not 'no', but yes!" Seriously -- it would be used to affirmatively answer the question, "Won't you have some coffee?" ("Hvil du ikke har kaffe?")
I had some more, but js beat me to them. Second time in two days he's bested me! Fortunately, I know that his language skills suck.
je ne sais qua
is the idiomatic French for "I can't quite put my finger on it," as compared with the grammatically translatable but essentially meaningless "je ne sais pas ce qui," or "I don't know what."
mise en scene
(minus any appropriate accents)
Greek: phileo, agape, eros. All of these translate as "love" in English, but all convey more meanting than is contained in the single word "love". I've seen it described on one website as phileo: brotherly love agape: unconditional love eros: sexual love but even that does not fully capture the meanings involved.
In my field of work (agriculture) there are many words and concepts that don't really exist in English. I had to write a small dictionary for my colleagues, as they were forever wondering how to translate
(liquid manure containing urine) or
(the concept of raising/breeding animals, or the place where they are raised, or the flock/herd itself). The worse are the newly created concepts, such as
, that describes the sequence of operations necessary to grow a crop or raising/breeding animals. It's interesting, btw, to see how language drives other things (for instance marketing, technology or research).
Finally! A word for liquid manure containing urine! Thank you, eldigilo!
LordSludge, how can you bring up Danish without mentioning
? I thought that was the canonical Danish untranslatable.
In middle school Latin I learned that
is used as the first word in a rhetorical question, thus indicating that no answer is required, and I've always thought that would be useful in English, i.e. Num the weather sure is hot, isn't it? However on extensive googling
is all I can find on it (scroll down to first comment.) I love angst & weltanschmerz but they're english now. How about cono (pronounced conyo, don't know how to get the cedilla in) - the spanish word theoretically for cunt but actually used as a kind of all purpose semi swearing interjection when you don't know what else to say?
you could use productive affixes to make a plethora of words that don't exist in any natural languages. But a good example would be "homaraneco," which was the name of creator L.L. Zamenhof's personal philosophy. The root words mean: hom - human, ar - group of, an - member of, ec - indicates that the word being formed has the aforementioned quality, as in amikeco "friendship." So homaraneco means, roughly, humanity-membership; that is, the quality of being a member of the group of humans. It's basically a very idealistic philosophy emphasizing equality and harmony.
mygothlaundry: I think "fuck" has the same use in English. Eg "Fuck, I don't know... An apricot?" When it comes to Spanish, how about "manana"? It means literally "tomorrow", but actually means "when I get round to it".
yami: I didn't know how to spell it! And, to be honest, I've only ever heard the form "hyggelige". But, yeah, it's a great word, a great feeling or sentiment -- "very Danish", as my ex would say.
Blaise Bailey Finnegan: In English, a banter is a shoot the shit. It's good conversation. I can see the meaning still fitting with the examples you gave. Like if I just came back from a good dinner party, I'd say it was a good shoot the shit, but I might instead say it was good banter. Likewise, I go fishing with friends just for the shoot the shit, but I could easily do it for the banter.
Macho! for when a man's gotta be, ur, ah, well, a man. And what about that Arabic j-word that means holy war against the infidels. You know, the kind of war Bush is waging against the ungodly Amurikans.
1) umami... that extra sense of taste that can't be defined, much less described in english-- but that exists nonetheless 2) arrangiarsi... an italian phrase that i've started hearing over an over in the last few years. it's "the art of making do".
ooh, and just remembered: 3) tiffinwalla... in Mumbai, much of the population makes their own lunch, and then has a deliveryman pick it up and bring it to their workplace in time for lunch (yes, the trains are that tightly packed). One tiffinwalla usually picks up and delivers 15-20 "tiffins".
comes to mind. Closest English translation is "uncanny", but that doesn't really cover it. And I love the Germans for giving us "bierfahne"- literally, a "beer flag" or the smell of beer that comes oozing out of every pore of one's body when they've been drinking, um, beer.
They Have a Word for It
. You can even
Mr. Knickerbocker: I'm English, recently moved to Glasgow for uni. Where I come from, you can shoot the shit, but you can't have a good shoot the shit. It may well have a different meaning where you are.
"Hvil du ikke har kaffe?"
Erm... that means "rest you not have [present tense instead of infinitive] coffee?" I think you mean "Vil du ikke ha kaffe?", which is good - though formal - Norwegian, if not Danish (I don't think the Danes are able to get so stuffily formal). Tool: Someone forgot to send me the memo about "genre" and "ombudsman". God damn this parasitic American English!
Skrik: Hey, gimme a break on the silent "H"es -- I thought I was doin good, as an American, to speak *any* Danish! (Doubles as a secret code language here in South Carolina...)
I've always found it very telling that Japanese has
, meaning "sudden death from overwork". Likewise, that German has a word for disliking children (
) but they have to borrow the word "happy" from English (the closest equivalents in German are "glücklich" which means lucky and happy about it, or "freulich" which means overjoyed). Other favorite German words:
, which means soft but only in the sense of pale and doughy (the Pillsbury Dough Boy is extremely weich), and
, which is a funny comment that comes only in hindsight (literally, "joke from the stairs" after having left the room I suppose).
I heard that there's no word for 'compromise' in German -- anyone know if that's true?
Well, Google translate comes up with Kompromiß.
While we're messing about in Danish, what about "
", a term for a short, humerous, pithy poem, originally invented by wundermensch
to talk circles around the the Nazi occupation of Denmark, and perpetuated afterward just for the fun of it.
Firstly, I love the subject so
for the thread. I'll admit to having missed the "hardest word to translate" thread, too, so I'll play here. By the way,
sounds very much like the french
, or "spirit/inspiration of the stairs", but it's good to know - thanks
. Malay has some contributions to english, of which
are a couple. Some malay words which don't have ready english equivalents are
describes the phenomenon where someone assumes that they are the subject of conversation when the discussion really has nothing to do with them at all. With the phenomenon being the foundation of many a "Three's Company" episode, I'm surprised the word hasn't made the jump. It can also mean to think of oneself as being above one's station, for which english supplies a ready idiom, but it's only for that particular sense of the word.
, on the other hand, describes the nature of things which put you on edge/make you grind your teeth/make your skin crawl. "Squickiness" may apply to a certain extent, but the term applies to, say, listening to nails on a chalkboard while simultaneously seeing someone whose skin is covered in holes.
Where I come from, you can shoot the shit, but you can't have a good shoot the shit.
O_o really? wow. Here, anytime you shoot the shit, it has to be good, otherwise you couldn't discribe it as a shoot the shit, because no one is shooting. The only way a shoot the shit could not be good is if you're an employer who's employees keep having shoot the shits instead of working, or you're a customer trying to get help from someone who's too busy shooting the shit. Regardless, what about the term "conversation"? If you substitute the word "conversation" every instance that you've heard the word "banter", would it still make sense? Or has there been any instance at all where the person could not have been talking about conversation?
*paging languagehat, languagehat to this thread please.*
hey where's lang been lately anyway?
*runs in puffing* I had work to do! But it's done now. *falls over, picks self back up*
There's also a nice Russian word, "Rosbliuto" or "Rasbliuto". It refers to the feeling one has for someone who was once loved by them, but is no longer
You know, I saw that, and I thought, "Dammit, I just read something about that recently..." :D
Wabi Sabi is found in the "they have a word for that" book. It's a term that explains a large concept in Japanese aesthetics. It's related to the idea that things that are old and well-used can have a special kind of beauty. http://c2.com/w4/wikibase/?WabiSabi It's an idea that I liked a lot.
Well, what I meant was, you can't have
shoot the shit. It ain't a noun. One
shoot the shit. It's a pleasant and breezy conversation. But anyway, banter has other uses. It can show a good conversation. Equally, if I were leaping out of a plane made entirely of marshmallows into a vat full of treacle, that could be good banter. Why did I do it? I did it for the banter. I guess that you
say that I did it for the conversation, but that doesn't really imply the I-did-it-for-no-reasonness of it.
You can't have a shoot the shit.
In my neck of the woods, obv.
Nor in mine.
Last year me and my friends were explaining "s'mores" to a coupla Brazilian students. Whoa. Which makes me think, what about other foods? Nigh impossible to have a one-word translation for paella or gazpacho or bouillabaisse or...
...roux or ratatouille or stroganoff or... There's a Maori placename in the North Island: Tetaumatawhakatangihangakoauaotamateaurehaeaturipukapihimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuaakitanarahu which translates roughly to "The hill where the man Taumata with the big knees who climbed and descended and ate mountains played his flute to his loved one." A bit over the top, really. It's always shortened to Taumata.
Interesting and pretty basic differences in language.
(you can just scroll down to the picture)
more more more the more abstract or contextual the better
Nigh impossible to have a one-word translation for paella or gazpacho or bouillabaisse or...
...roux or ratatouille or stroganoff or...
Yes, but think of it this way. Could you explain the dishes in their own languages using only one word? I feel that a word should be considered "hard to translate" if you can't explain it at all, or adequately in another language, not just that it doesn't have a synonym in another language. Just because it might take me a sentence or two to explain what 锅贴 means, doesn't make it hard to translate. I can't really explain what it means in Chinese without taking at least a dozen words.
Incidently, 锅贴 are a kind of dumpling filled with mincemeat, Chinese cabbage and with wheat flour skin. It's fried in oil till one side is brown and served browned side up. Much like the Japanese
Blaise Bailey Finnegan: Banter sounds very much like the Irish 'craic'.
Could be, but Scots use (or used to use "crack" or "speak" in place of "craic".
I thought of one: patois.
"they have a word for that" book
Be very leery of those books. They're full of misinformation. Check with actual language dictionaries if possible.
Alnedra - I think around here they are called just "dumplings". That's not that descriptive, but neither is "dumpling" that descriptive of the English food. Of course, I think I've eaten more Chinese or Japanese style dumplings (the Japanese were called gyoza) than I have have English.
Sorry, languagehat -- I was completely wrong. My apologies. See, this is why we needed you on the thread earlier...
Capt.: Not your fault -- you understandably believed what you read in the book. It's the lazy, worthless assholes who compile the books that I can't stand.
Sorry, M. Tool, patois is English. I saw that memo.
I think around here they are called just "dumplings".
Not necessarily, jb. There are at least five or six different kind of chinese dumplings that I know of, and most of them are either cooked and eaten in soup, or steamed. This dish is not typical of Chinese dumplings, which is why the name literally means "stick to the pan", much like paella literally means "pan".
i just ordered that "word for that" book at the library but it will take forever to get here. keep going if you want, i've gotten some interesting leads mr. hat, maybe it's time to make rosbliuto a word for inferring meaning
tracicle: i had to check back because i thought your word was the one in an old crowded house song-- and i thought i had solved a momentary mystery poop
I know the song you're thinking of, ethylene. It's a song by Tim Finn, I think. Can't remember any more right now.
You mean where you live you can't go into a Chinese restaurant and order potstickers? That really sucks, I'm sorry.
I like the Hunan-style ones the best. Mmmmm.
Most of these words are English words and have been for a long time. Chutzpah, Ennui certainly are. Actually, Ennui is almost a false friend. We (French speakers) don't use it much for the literary connotation the English use has.
pan-stickers = potstickers? I love them potstickers!
: A dealer in stolen cats. (Russian)