A face badly in need of a fist
April 26, 2020 12:11 PM   Subscribe

 
What's the word for an interesting article illustrated with the most anodyne stock photos?

(also, "esprit d'escalier" and "treppenwitz" are the same thing.)
posted by chavenet at 12:19 PM on April 26 [20 favorites]


Swedish has another useful word 'orkar', meaning 'to be able to muster the energy to do'. Most often used with the negative.
posted by anthill at 12:26 PM on April 26 [5 favorites]


> A longing for distant places—and while the English word wanderlust comes close [..]

I'm sorry, what
posted by parm at 12:28 PM on April 26 [19 favorites]


Swedish has another useful word 'orkar', meaning 'to be able to muster the energy to do'. Most often used with the negative.

In english, this translates to "arsed", as in "can't be arsed".
posted by dng at 12:29 PM on April 26 [34 favorites]


They forgot PABLUM.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:30 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


Reheated cabbage would be a good askmefi tag.
posted by Ashwagandha at 12:38 PM on April 26 [6 favorites]


I would like to know what English words have no translation in some other languages, as well.
posted by meese at 12:49 PM on April 26 [11 favorites]


I like Verschlimmbessern (which I didn’t see on the list) - making something worse by trying to improve it. (Though Windows Update was a good translation for quite a while).
posted by scorbet at 12:49 PM on April 26 [24 favorites]


21. KUMMERSPECK (GERMAN)

Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, "grief bacon."


It's perfect.
posted by schroedinger at 12:53 PM on April 26 [29 favorites]


Pairs with Frustfressen as outlined here.
posted by chavenet at 1:04 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


there is a thing going around on facebook saying that the Mandarin word for 'penguin' translates to 'business goose' and I really really want this to be true. can anyone confirm?
posted by supermedusa at 1:08 PM on April 26 [16 favorites]


sehnsucht
“It is a wonderful German word meaning the longing for something you once had combined with a yearning for something as yet unknown.”

Sprezzatura
Very roughly, sprezzatura is the Italian art of appearing nonchalant and effortless, when a lot of time and consideration has gone into perfecting that look and vibe.

Chispa
In Spanish, chispa can mean "spark" in relation to fire or electricity, but it is colloquially used to mean that stage of drunkenness when you're feeling at your best – a little bit merry, perhaps, full of life and happy, but well before the slurring, shambolic and sleepy stage kicks in.

sympatheia (greek)
The feeling that the universe is an indivisible, unified living organism endlessly in flux.

Shinpan (japanese)
The physical manifestation, within the body, of heartbreak.

And one of my favorites:

Saudade (portuguese)
A yearning for a happiness (or person) that has passed and which you know can never return.

For years when people asked me what kind of dog I had I would say she is a Portuguese Saudade because I got tired of them saying, "No, she's too beautiful for that!" when I answered correctly: "She's a mutt." (In actuality she's a Husky/Shepherd/Poodle/Akita cross).
posted by dobbs at 1:10 PM on April 26 [11 favorites]


What's the word for an interesting article illustrated with the most anodyne stock photos?

As someone who often has to research stock photos and runs up against the fact that they are far from diverse, I appreciate that whoever chose the photos for this article tried to match the models to the country of origin when they could. (The hit rate is small nonetheless.)
posted by ejs at 1:22 PM on April 26 [5 favorites]


Saudade has its own wiki page and is more complex that dobbs' explanation above. English bitter-sweet gets nearer to the description which encompasses both past, possibly not be repeated and future to be similar but not necessarily equal to the past experiance but equally fulfilling.
Here is a little more about this most beautiful of words.
posted by adamvasco at 1:25 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Swedish has another useful word 'orkar', meaning 'to be able to muster the energy to do'. Most often used with the negative.

We're calling that spoons now.
posted by sjswitzer at 1:26 PM on April 26 [17 favorites]


when people become depressed or lethargic at the onset of spring.

When has this ever happened? And when has it happened enough to become a 'thing'?
posted by Splunge at 1:29 PM on April 26


>I would like to know what English words have no translation in some other languages, as well.

Rickroll.
posted by KChasm at 1:31 PM on April 26 [20 favorites]


Sonder from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is pretty good too
posted by lalochezia at 1:34 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]


Went looking for my favorite I once saw on a similar list, a feeling of nostalgia more pleasant in itself than what is being remembered, and came across this list which appears to be the original minus stock illustrations that the FP was taken from. Still doesn't have the word I'm looking for, although I suppose suadade or sehnsucht come close.
posted by blue shadows at 1:38 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


I would like to take issue with “koi no yokan” — that’s three words, and they literally translate to“premonition of love,” and not a particularly compressed or apt phrase.
posted by Sokka shot first at 1:41 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]


It's pretty neat how some of these appear to be products of their specific culture & geography; of course the Danes, given their weather, would have a word like hygge, meaning "the pleasant, genial, and intimate feeling associated with sitting around a fire in the winter with close friends"; and I wonder if the Inuit have a word (ikstuarpok) for "the feeling of anticipation when you’re waiting for someone to show up at your house and you keep going outside to see if they’re there yet" because, living in harsh climates, you'd have to be really excited to keep going outside to see if someone is coming, as opposed to just waiting inside where it's toasty and warm.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:51 PM on April 26 [5 favorites]


... the Mandarin word for 'penguin' translates to 'business goose' and I really really want this to be true

According to Google Translate it's "enterprise goose," so... yes!
posted by sjswitzer at 1:51 PM on April 26 [16 favorites]


I’m delighted that “uffda” made the list, but their definition isn’t very accurate (you use it effectively the same way you’d use “oy vey”) but last time I checked, Minnesota and Wisconsin weren’t foreign. I don’t think they use the (same) word in Sweden.
posted by Autumnheart at 2:03 PM on April 26 [7 favorites]


I don't care that it's not technically a real word. Prisencolinensinainciusol belongs here.


AWL RITE
posted by delfin at 2:04 PM on April 26 [17 favorites]


In GreeK, κέφι / kefi, a (usually) shared, feeling of joy, buoyancy of spirit, energy, cheer, a bit of wildness, laughter, warm affection for your companions, lightheartedness, jollity, glowing with the happiness of the moment, a suffusion of contentedness with this exact point in time with these people under these stars with this food and this music (etc) ... it can be kindled, it can be lost, or nurtured. One opens oneself to kefi. Or it may take you by surprise! It doesn't happen because nothing is wrong in the world or one's life, but in spite of what is sad or hard, in joyful defiance. That's my own attempt at translating it. Here's something elsewhere.
posted by taz at 2:06 PM on April 26 [9 favorites]


I would like to know what English words have no translation in some other languages, as well.

Jabroni
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:06 PM on April 26 [10 favorites]


The Japanese word komorebi is one of my favorites: sunlight filtering through trees.
posted by katecholamine at 2:15 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]


Swedish has another useful word 'orkar', meaning 'to be able to muster the energy to do'. Most often used with the negative.

That’s what my cow orkers do.
posted by madcaptenor at 2:21 PM on April 26 [11 favorites]


BAKKU-SHAN (JAPANESE) "von Hinten Hui, von vorne Pfui" (German equivalent)

But I tell you two more.

1. stronzo (Italian). A small, dried piece of shit

2. Kalsarikännit (Finnish). Sitting at home alone, in your underwear and getting drunk
posted by yoyo_nyc at 2:30 PM on April 26 [9 favorites]


Gezellig.
posted by Pendragon at 2:33 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


Mandarin word for 'penguin' translates to 'business goose'

Sort of, maybe? Penguin is 企鹅 in Mandarin. According to my dictionary, the first character 企 means “to stand on tiptoe” or it can be an abbreviation of 企业 meaning enterprise/ company or business. So it could have originally been a goose on tiptoe, or a company goose. However, I’m fairly sure if you were to ask someone what 企鹅 means, they would say penguin, just like no-one thinks about the meanings of individual terms in compound words in English. (If someone says sea lion for example, you don’t normally think of a lion swimming in the sea.)
posted by scorbet at 2:37 PM on April 26 [15 favorites]


a) that is not what weltschmerz means, and b) if it were, there's a perfectly good English word, 'ennui', that covers the same idea (also, c) my English spell check recognizes 'weltschmerz'as a valid word, so I'm not sure it's not an English word anyway, since as far as I can tell the only way to determine if a word is included in the English language is to ask "has a native English speaker ever said it as an English word, preferably in writing?".
posted by memetoclast at 2:38 PM on April 26 [6 favorites]




I follow a Twitter account that posts choice entries from the first Irish-English dictionary, compiled by Fr Patrick Dineen a century ago. Some words describe very specific things or states of being without resorting to the kind of compound word formation of German, some have a base meaning and layers of increasingly abstract ones.

boidiarmáil, f., the making of sorry attempts at doing work.

stocaire, m., a trumpeter, a boaster, an interloper or sponger, one purposely left without a partner in a Donegal country-dance.

driongán, m., a plaything; a worthless pastime; anything worthless or unwieldy; a toy; hence a person or beast in poor condition, or slight in build.

raiste, m., rain driven furiously by the wind; fury, fierceness, a strong wave, a wild person.

seobob, siobab, m., haste, hurry, confusion, fluster; diarrhoea.
posted by kersplunk at 2:47 PM on April 26 [8 favorites]


No machatunim?
posted by Mchelly at 2:48 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Spizerinctum is an odd English word meaning energy, vigor, or vitality.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 2:55 PM on April 26


Jabroni

when people who are less from new jersey than i am ask me what it means, i tell them that Jaboni means some fuckin' guy
posted by entropone at 2:59 PM on April 26 [13 favorites]


memetoclast: "ennui" is a French word adopted into English. So it's "English," but not English.
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:02 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]


Chispa
In Spanish, chispa can mean "spark" in relation to fire or electricity, but it is colloquially used to mean that stage of drunkenness when you're feeling at your best – a little bit merry, perhaps, full of life and happy, but well before the slurring, shambolic and sleepy stage kicks in.


Like so many of these 'unstranslateable' words or phrases, that's probably a fairly limited usage by one group of people in a specific area, one I've never come across in any Spanish speaking country, at least, and it's basically a metaphorical use of the 'translateable' sense of 'spark'.
posted by signal at 3:04 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Mandarin word for 'penguin' translates to 'business goose'

Doesn't it translate to 'penguin'?
posted by signal at 3:05 PM on April 26 [8 favorites]


memetoclast: "ennui" is a French word adopted into English.

So is "beef." Beef and ennui are fully paid-up members of the Official English Words Club, just like tsunami and burrito are.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 3:15 PM on April 26 [11 favorites]


I would like to know what English words have no translation in some other languages, as well.

Not exactly what you are asking for, but I imagine some of the words in the book The Wonder of Whiffling: And Other Extraordinary Words in the English Language would qualify. Interview with the author discussing some of the words here.
posted by TedW at 3:20 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


According to my dictionary, the first character 企 means “to stand on tiptoe”

Confirmed with native-speaking ex, it is literally "standing goose" but you don't think of it that way any more than a sea lion is a big wet cat. But she sees why it could be misconstrued as "business" since, as noted, it's part of that compound.

I should know better with Google Translate. It's really good with the gestalt of phrases due to the way its neural net is trained, but not so good with stand-alone words or symbols for more or less the same reason.
posted by sjswitzer at 3:22 PM on April 26 [7 favorites]


gestalt

there's one!
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 3:34 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


Michener's Iberia has a section trying to explain 'duende'. It means something like elan, but with a particularly Spanish flavor.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 3:38 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


sehnsucht
“It is a wonderful German word meaning the longing for something you once had combined with a yearning for something as yet unknown.”


It’s also a rager by Einstürzende Neubaten!
posted by Burhanistan at 3:48 PM on April 26 [5 favorites]


"when people become depressed or lethargic at the onset of spring.
When has this ever happened? And when has it happened enough to become a 'thing'?"

T.S. Eliot:
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Virginia Woolf: “The flower bloomed and faded. The sun rose and sank. The lover loved and went. And what the poets said in rhyme, the young translated into practice.”

Louise Gluck:
“Look at her, touching his cheek
to make a truce, her fingers
cool with spring rain;
in thin grass, bursts of purple crocus—

even here, even at the beginning of love,
her hand leaving his face makes
an image of departure

and they think
they are free to overlook
this sadness.”
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:49 PM on April 26 [26 favorites]


My favorite incredibly useful non-English word is from the ancient Greek:

κακοθερής (Kakotheres) -- "unfitted to endure summer heat" is how Liddell-Scott renders it. ("bad at heat" would also be close)

I now tell people I'm kakotheric all the time!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:55 PM on April 26 [12 favorites]




In te reo Māori - pōhēhē means a person who wrongly assumes they know something and willingly maintains the misunderstanding.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 4:30 PM on April 26 [16 favorites]


that's probably a fairly limited usage by one group of people in a specific area, one I've never come across in any Spanish speaking country, at least

When I lived in Ecuador, we used “está happy” to describe someone in that state. With the h in the back of your throat a little bit.
posted by nickmark at 4:30 PM on April 26


There are, I think, good reasons to approach these sorts of lists with a degree of (although not with absolute) scepticism. The issue for me is that I think all words are, in a nontrivial sense, fundamentally untranslatable (see Quine on the indeterminacy of translation) and fundamentally inscrutable, even within a language that one speaks fluently. The cognitive and sociolinguistic contexts are never fully known, which is of particular relevance, in a practical sense, when we go beyond the kind of reference identified as denotation, and get into areas of broader cultural connotation.

When we talk about "untranslatable" words, I think we're rarely identifying a truly distinctive difference of denotation which cannot be conveyed in a single English word. I think what we're usually doing is reflecting the fact that speakers constantly use words in ways that go beyond denotation, and that this happens in a cultural context.

Like...is the English word "bread" translatable into all languages? I mean, its primarily denotation is clearly something that nearly all extant languages can convey in a single word, but what about the connotations around "bread" that arise because of the (almost certainly erroneous) English translation of "ἐπιούσιος" in the Lord's Prayer as "daily", and the many billions of times the specific translation found in the Book of Common Prayer has been spoken by English speakers, and the connections that creates between spiritual succour and mortal sustenance, and the probably not unconnected use of "bread" as a metonym for "money". Some languages do have some or most of that context, but many do not. To complicate things further, in some languages, a word with a different denotation will carry connotations closer to "bread" in English than the literal translation of "bread" does?

So should we say that there is no exact equivalent to the English word "bread" in many languages? In my view, it's quite reasonable to answer that in the affirmative, but does that mean there's no translation of "bread" in the way we usually think of translation? I don't think so. I tend to have the same sort of sceptical feeling about this sort of list.

I also always think including long German compound words is sort of cheating. English has plenty of terms that function as a single unit, and I'm not sure that taking the spaces out is particularly relevant to the idea of something being an untranslatable word. I mean, does the tendency to spell "in so far" as "insofar" tell us something interesting about English speakers' relationship to the definition of extent? Again, I'm sceptical.
posted by howfar at 4:36 PM on April 26 [17 favorites]


I'm sorry to report that "Seigneur terraces" (which should be "seigneur terrasses" anyway), which has been appearing for decades in those lists of funny foreign words, is totally made up, it does not exist in French, and does not even sound French. Likewise, back in 2005, Mefi's own languagehat was annoyed by "razbliuto", which does not exist in Russian (previously).
posted by elgilito at 4:37 PM on April 26 [7 favorites]


> 19. Kaelling (Danish) - person who stands on doorstep (or in line at the supermarket, or at the park, or in a restaurant) cursing at their children?

That's cute (sorta), but in the case of my neighbors, I'm pretty sure all three kids are actually named, "Get your ass in the god-damned house."

I'm not yet sure precisely how they are able to tell whom is being addressed.
posted by glonous keming at 4:54 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Isn't #2 (Bakku-shan) roughly approximated by the English slang "butterface"?
posted by Johnny Quaternion at 4:56 PM on April 26 [7 favorites]


British English also has the acronym BOBFOC.
posted by howfar at 5:03 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]


does the tendency to spell "in so far" as "insofar" tell us something interesting about English speakers' relationship to the definition of extent? Again, I'm sceptical.

posted by howfar at 9:36 AM on April 27 [+] [!]


Well, you would be.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:05 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]


From Dave Langford's science-fiction fanzine Ansible, March 1997:

Hazel's Language Lessons: Spot the Fan, in Yoruba.
  • a-gbóti-kèkè-mà-gbe-ìyàwó, he who spends his resources entertaining people with alcoholic drinks without anything in particular to celebrate.
  • a-dà-ni-dúró-d'onígbèsè, he who stops you with idle talk until a creditor catches up with you.
  • akídìndìnrin tíí mó'jú òru ògànjó, a nitwit who makes faces at people at the darkest hour of the night.
  • ojú kò'nkò konko, sharp and protruding eyeballs.
  • a-mú-ni-t'òkèlè-bo'mú, he who causes another person so much confusion that he pushes a morsel of food into his nostrils instead of his mouth.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 5:19 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Like...is the English word "bread" translatable into all languages?

I dunno, but "sandwich" probably isn't. In part because we can't even define it in English.

See also: "Soup."

I don't know enough other languages (...any other languages) to be certain, but if I were looking for English terms that were hard to translate simply into other languages, I'd look into Christian religious terminology.

I remember pulling my hair out at one point trying to find a word that meant "the study of the nature of the soul," because not all religions agree on what a "soul" is and how it works, and I failed to find one. This led me down a rabbit hole of religious-word etymology studies, and the awareness that cultures whose languages weren't shaped by the Catholic church have very different labels for spiritual concepts. Bring in the Protestant reform, and English probably has a small swarm of religious terms that don't translate well.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:20 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


For a certain subset of English speakers, “esprit d'escalier” can be translated as jerk store.
posted by TedW at 5:31 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


I would like to know what English words have no translation in some other languages, as well.

If you'll accept morphemes as well as words, -gate is a good one. Imagine a lnaugage having a morpheme to mean "media circus surrounding a scandal"!
posted by lollusc at 5:58 PM on April 26 [9 favorites]


In te reo Māori - pōhēhē means a person who wrongly assumes they know something and willingly maintains the misunderstanding.

(Rhymes with covfefe.)
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:12 PM on April 26 [7 favorites]


I sort of enjoy playing along in these threads -- they pop up on the blue a couple times a year, right? -- mostly to chuckle at some of those German run-ons that are cousin to 'schadenfreude', or to find a word that offers a nifty window into another culture (the word 'hygge' is popping into my head, here...). The expressive power of words! :-)

But when #2 on the list provides a way to classify a woman on her physical appearance, I can take a hard pass on this version. See you in six months when Bored Panda tries this again. The regrettable overrun of patriarchy. :-(
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 7:14 PM on April 26 [9 favorites]


Sisu

Also from Finn:

takatalvi ("back winter")
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:18 PM on April 26


Shortly after meeting my wife, she introduced me to the nuanced meaning that the Spanish word nervio had acquired in the lexicon of her family. As used in their Chilean home, the word could be defined as a feeling of such intense affection that one trembles or grits his teeth with restraint so as not to harm the object of his affection. I have heard others allude to the sensation in seemingly bizarre phrases such as, “It’s so cute [that] I want to squeeze it to death.”

I often ask people about nervio. For those like me who have experienced it frequently throughout their lives, a complete definition is unnecessary and the word fills a void in their vocabulary. With others, my description is often greeted with bewilderment. Having never felt such a sensation, it is hard for them to imagine.

posted by Rhaomi at 7:26 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


If it comes to that, penguin isn't English either - it's maybe Welsh, or German or perhaps Latin... It's all part of English's tendency to lure other languages up dark alleyways and mug them for their nouns.

The one word I really thought might be useful from this list, is overmorrow, which looks useful and is already English.
posted by Fuchsoid at 8:11 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


At least the compiler of this listicle has wisened up from people yelling at lists of "untranslatable" words which consist entirely of translations of those "untranslatable" words to try and dodge around it by calling them "no English equivalent". But not wisened up enough to know about compound words or what connotations or idioms are.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 8:12 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]


Like Theophrastus Johnson, I noped the hell out after number 2. It's both misogynist AF and largely inaccurate, since there is a common English slang word that means something very similar. Being more accurate wouldn't really make the grossness of it more forgivable, but somehow it being both gross and wrong makes it worse.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:14 PM on April 26 [9 favorites]


21. KUMMERSPECK (GERMAN)

Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, "grief bacon."

It's perfect.


Who's ready to discuss quarantine kummerspeck with me?
posted by medusa at 8:41 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


Also:

OK, we do have overmorrow in English, but when was the last time someone used that?

Overmorrow is used on the regular by my 5-year old. It's a useful word. For a while I thought he had made it up, just like he makes up detailed scientific names of imaginary animals.
posted by medusa at 8:47 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


A German word for wimp is Schattenparker....someone who parks in the shade.
posted by storybored at 8:51 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


A German word for wimp is Schattenparker....someone who parks in the shade.

There's so many of these German insults meaning "wimp". I love them:

Warmduscher - lit. warm (water) showerer
Jeansbügler - lit. jeans ironer
Frauenversteher - lit. woman-understander
Schwiegermutterrechtgeber - lit. mother-in-law agreer
Chefwitzlacher - lit. boss's joke laugher
Backofen-Vorheizer - lit. oven pre-heater
Spiegelschminkerin - lit. mirror user for putting on make up
Filmweiner(in) - lit. movie crier

There's a list of 600 of them here. Some more common than others, of course.
posted by lollusc at 9:58 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]


There are some good English words with no immediate translation too. For instance "brocialist", which is that particular variety of fervently serious socialist that predicates all of his beliefs on the white cis male experience.
posted by Go Banana at 10:42 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


"sorry" is surprisingly difficult to translate, since some languages say "I'm sorry" or "I'm sorrowful" and others say "my bad/my fault" and others say "I beg your pardon" and others say "I feel you" and these all have different valences and connotations in different languages and it can be super-fraught when trying to sincerely apologize.

"Skeezy" was persistently the English word I had the most difficulty explaining to foreign student classmates in college and grad school (late 90s-mid 2000s, why do you ask? :P ), and it mattered because you definitely need to know if the bar you're going to is just fine, skeezy, or outright dangerous. ("Like, it's probably fine? But don't, like, leave your wallet on the table, and the floor is DEFINITELY going to be sticky.") And then they'd be like "Okay, but why is that GUY skeezy?" and we'd be like "Okay so imagine if that guy was a bar ... "

Things like "disinterested" (not partial to any particular position, rather than uninterested, or just-don't-care) and "inflammable" (EASILY set on fire, as opposed to non-flammable), where an apparently-negative prefix was doing weird work, were also particularly tricky.

I suppose "cool" is the prototypical American English word that doesn't translate, but our voracious exportation of culture probably renders that moot.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:02 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


I’m delighted that “uffda” made the list, but their definition isn’t very accurate (you use it effectively the same way you’d use “oy vey”) but last time I checked, Minnesota and Wisconsin weren’t foreign. I don’t think they use the (same) word in Sweden.
posted by Autumnheart at 2:03 PM on April 26


Thanks for the clarification!
I could not match their definition to anything in my idiolect of Swedish, but now I can tell you that it’s “usch då”
posted by AxelT at 11:05 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


I suspect that skeezy ( and skeevy) came from Flemish Dutch to English. In the old Brussels dialect scheiven means literally "bent", but in a sinister way.
posted by Steakfrites at 11:56 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


Nice to see Indonesian make an appearance on these lists, but sentak bangun isn't really it.
Sentak means snap or flash. Bangun means wake. It's a literal direct correspondence.
posted by Gotanda at 12:12 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]


I was about to comment on how I feel like this exact conversation about this exact set of words has happened before, and then I noticed the link is from the Before Times. It is a mild pet peeve of mine that these lists are all IMPOSSIBLE-TO-TRANSLATE WORDS and then they are all fully explained, through translation, as though English does not itself have a single commonly used word that means "to make someone unexpectedly watch the music video for Never Gonna Give You Up"

of the Japanese phrases given, one of them is actually in common use (and basically just means "it is what it is" or equivalent thought-terminating cliché), one of them is basically just a not-particular-special phrase, and the others are broadly outdated slang

they couldn't even be bothered to do enough research to find the extremely common and extremely useful (and extremely hard to explain) mottainai, which is a concept that comes up in everyday conversation to refer to the idea of something being wasteful in a way that is unfortunate or upsetting. Like, if you throw away the last quarter of your sandwich, that's mottainai, but it's also mottainai if you buy a bunch of fruit and it starts to go bad. It's also used much less concretely, too: if you buy a guitar or something and never play it, it's kind of mottainai to hold onto it instead of selling it or giving it away to someone who might use it. It's also mottainai if, say, you're talking to your historian friend about some place you (a layperson) visited, that they'd been studying (and would have been much more able to appreciate)

anyway these lists make me grump
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:24 AM on April 27 [7 favorites]


(Putting on my professional translator hat, in practice, the hardest words to translate aren't the ones that are ever so precise, it's the ones that are less precise than in English. For instance, the Japanese language does not distinguish between "accurate" and "precise," among many other concepts that English distinguishes more finely than Japanese, and there's no English word that encompasses the meanings of both. Or, as the old joke goes:
A scientist was talking to a colleague from overseas. Having studied some of her native language, he noted that it must be so useful that her native language was so much more precise in the words it used. “Oh, no,” she replied. “You'd think it would lead to more accuracy, but instead it just leads to more arguments.”
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:27 AM on April 27 [4 favorites]


Swedish has another useful word 'orkar', meaning 'to be able to muster the energy to do'. Most often used with the negative.

I can't even.
posted by shponglespore at 1:29 AM on April 27 [3 favorites]


There's a dire lack of Chinese words in this list, what with the 1.5 billion speakers and thousands of years of culture. My suggestion:

麻煩 or máfan (where the 'a' vowel is the same sound in "father", first syllable rises slightly in tone) - loosely translates to "troublesome" or "pain in the ass", but less intense. Minor inconveniences that appear every day that sometimes you're in the mood to handle and other days you just don't have the juice.

In Chinese its super-useful because it can be used as a verb as well as an adjective!
posted by Enkidude at 1:55 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]


Lots of languages don't have a word for "yes". They have ways of indicating assent (e.g., "Are you going to the store?" "Going!") but not a generic word. Translating a question/answer to those languages is not as simple as just inserting a paraphrase of the missing term: you really have to rewrite things so whatever you're asking is capable of being answered.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:45 AM on April 27


I loved "business goose" for penguin. I had to stop reading when people started pedantically correcting us to say "penguin" in Chinese is just "penguin".

Times are tough. Please, just give us "business goose". Please.
posted by like_neon at 3:06 AM on April 27 [8 favorites]


I'm translating at work (at home) right now! The concept is that I translate it myself, and then a native English speaker goes through the text, all to save time and money.
My original plan was to write in English and translate to Danish which would have been better, but because I was teaching in Danish, it was hard to change languages in the middle of a line of thought. (I teach in Danish in spring, and in English during autumn).
There are so many subtle differences between the languages that reflect differences in culture. For example, the English words construction and structure look a lot like Danish konstruktion and struktur, and they don't have completely different sets of meanings. But they have enough different meanings that you cannot translate them directly.
I feel this is more of a problem when words have multiple meanings?
Anyway, today I was disappointed to learn that the beautiful precise germanic word dobbelretvinklet projektion seems to be just multi view drawings in English.
posted by mumimor at 3:50 AM on April 27 [3 favorites]


Chispa
In Spanish, chispa can mean "spark" in relation to fire or electricity, but it is colloquially used to mean that stage of drunkenness when you're feeling at your best – a little bit merry, perhaps, full of life and happy, but well before the slurring, shambolic and sleepy stage kicks in.
So, "buzzed"? There's also "tipsy" but I regard that as a bit beyond "buzzed".
Like so many of these 'unstranslateable' words or phrases, that's probably a fairly limited usage by one group of people in a specific area
Am I doing something like that with the word "buzzed"? (I'm fairly certain that "tipsy" is well-established.)
posted by swr at 4:54 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]


yes it's the feeling illustrated in this mitchell and webb skit
posted by some loser at 5:10 AM on April 27 [3 favorites]


when people become depressed or lethargic at the onset of spring.

When has this ever happened? And when has it happened enough to become a 'thing'?


Not spring as much, but there's such a thing as "Summer SAD" and it hits me every damn year.
posted by Foosnark at 6:03 AM on April 27 [6 favorites]


Am I doing something like that with the word "buzzed"?

It’s very well established in the US at a national level (including in the more negative context of buzzed driving is drunk driving campaigns).
posted by inflatablekiwi at 6:56 AM on April 27


Without speaking to this specific list, I like learning about words that are concise or precise in ways that suggest their usefulness. The sheer precision of Hawaiian when it comes to wind and rain is delightful. Same goes for Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks. I want to be that attentive to the qualities of mist and sunlight and the time of day.

And thank you, mottainai is useful!
posted by spamandkimchi at 8:57 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]


baby yoda gives me serious nervio
posted by supermedusa at 9:17 AM on April 27


Threefill is most useful!
posted by travertina at 9:18 AM on April 27


I've always liked: schtapzedemframflapen, a useful word of perhaps German or Bavarian heritage. Maybe it's Swiss. It seems to have fallen out of favor since the 1960s, but I believe it's making a comeback. As I understand it, it describes a foundation garment of some sort worn by female athletes.
posted by mule98J at 9:19 AM on April 27


16. HONIGKUCHENPFERD (GERMAN)

Taken literally, this word means “horse-shaped honey cake.” But it’s a turn of phrase, somewhat equivalent to the English idiom “grinning like a Cheshire cat.” It’s talking about a big grin the wearer just can’t wipe off of their face.


If the connotation is that potentially this is something that they shouldn't be grinning about for some reason, surely the quite idiomatic English equivalent is "shit-eating grin" (I agree with howfar's comment in that it's reasonable to compare short multi-word idioms to German compound word constructions). If it's meant to have a more innocent connotation, "beaming" seems like a direct translation. In either case this one seems questionable.
posted by Expecto Cilantro at 11:33 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]


Without context it’s impossible to translate pudding or biscuit from British to American English.
posted by sjswitzer at 3:00 PM on April 27 [3 favorites]


Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't pudding either the dessert course, any kind of dessert, or more specifically something like Christmas pudding which is not like the American Jello pudding? And biscuit or bikkie is the same as cookie in the US? Or are there more differences? I live in the US.
posted by mermayd at 3:49 PM on April 27


Business goose is fun and delightful. It's a sparkler on a cupcake - something to hold onto, in these uncertain times.

Business goose is exotic, ridiculous, inscrutable, you know, in that Oriental way.

Confucius say. Crisis is opportunity. Business goose. All spicy tidbits to sprinkle into conversations and presentations. A way to show off cultural curiosity and an adventurous intellect.

Yes, I know it's all in good fun, and you might even have a friend from somewhere in Asia. But this is how Asian culture gets put in a box marked "other."

I don't want you to feel bad. I don't want to berate. I'd just like you to understand a context where that can be a superficial and hurtful thing to hold onto.

This has been on my mind recently because Cuomo said in passing during one of his briefings that "at first, when it started in China, we thought, well maybe it affects the people over there differently" (not verbatim). Is it possible that American leadership was dismissive at first because somehow, they actually thought Chinese people have fundamentally different physiological responses to viruses? Even at Gracie Mansion, is that what's echoing in the corridors of power?

The mayor of Las Vegas also expressed a similar sentiment and Anderson Cooper had to shoot her down very quickly saying "That's ignorant. Chinese people are human." The WHO report was published January 12th but the American response was sluggish. Time was lost and lives were lost. Blink and you'll miss it, but just maybe racism - the unwillingness to recognize shared humanity in all people - played a part.

So if you have some extra time, and don't we all these days, take a closer look at how the Chinese language works. It's pretty cool and will blow your mind, far beyond the penguin business.

(Apologies for the downer detour. Sometimes things feel like they couldn't not be said.)
posted by dum spiro spero at 11:46 PM on April 27 [8 favorites]


but isn't pudding either the dessert course, any kind of dessert, or more specifically something like Christmas pudding which is not like the American Jello pudding

There's also black and white puddings, which at least in my (Irish) household were referred to collectively as pudding. It was clear from context (breakfast time, smell of bacon, eggs) what the question "Do you want pudding?"referred to. There's also stuff like Yorkshire pudding.

On the other hand, I still haven't figured out what the things that Americans call biscuits are. Something like a savoury scone? (The image conjured up by "biscuits and gravy" the first time you encounter it as a concept is, well, interesting, if you're British/Irish.)
posted by scorbet at 2:37 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]


American buscuits are, yes, savory buttery flaky soft better-than-scones, but have essentially the same ingredients. Also the gravy is not a brown gravy, it's white. Also, it's very common in the south, less popular up north, and the Canadians I know hadn't ever heard of it.
posted by LizBoBiz at 2:49 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]


Needs more hamsteren (to compulsively buy things in a crisis, akin to but not quite hoarding).
posted by plinth at 8:35 AM on April 28 [3 favorites]


Thank you, dum spiro spero.

I'm really into etymology. It was the only thing that got me through ESL. I also find it a source of fascinating historical tidbits. Like the ladies' menu, which largely ended after Kathleen Bick sued L'Orangerie for giving her a ladies' menu and her male guest the menu with prices.

But threads like this often make me a bit wary. They are often very popular with the kind of people in my life who have never seen an analytic language before, don't know anyone who has, and are just a bit too eager to believe that there exists a monolithic language called "Eskimo" that has devoted 400 (or whatever) words to snow.

Mandarin doesn't do inflection. It has an enormous number of one-syllable words which one says in different combinations. To marvel at "enterprise goose" is akin to talking about "taxicab" as if most English speakers were consciously shortening "taximeter cabriolet" in their heads every time they said it. Except worse, because at least taximeter cabriolet is accurate, and not the wilful continuation of a mistranslation.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 8:48 AM on April 28 [5 favorites]


To marvel at "enterprise goose" is akin to talking about "taxicab" as if most English speakers were consciously shortening "taximeter cabriolet"

I've explained to my kids that most of the "it means THIS in that other language!!!" factoids are equivalent to pointing out that the English word for a kitchen cabinet means "a board for cups" or that "honeymoon" means "a moon made of honey"... that a word being made of identifiable parts doesn't mean the people who natively speak that language think of it as those parts.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:42 PM on April 29 [7 favorites]


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