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(Guardian)   12 words native speakers say can't be translated outside their native tongue. Subby says that's an inaccuracy represented by excrement from the male of the bovine species   (theguardian.com) divider line 170
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13951 clicks; posted to Main » on 24 Aug 2014 at 8:19 AM (4 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-08-24 06:58:20 AM
Scene in Taipei restaurant

Me: "Waiter, what is this?"
Waiter: "Sorry, there is no English word for that"
Me: "Sorry, there is an English word for everything that I eat".
 
2014-08-24 08:35:58 AM
The schnapsidee one seems pretty straightforward
 
2014-08-24 08:40:19 AM
Saudade
This Portuguese word crops up on lots of untranslatable lists. Writer Manuel de Melo has defined it as "a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy". To me that's a reasonable description of the concept of "nostalgia"


Or addiction.
 
2014-08-24 08:42:36 AM
It seems there is a translation for all of them.. is the premise what le french call, un falsehood?
 
2014-08-24 08:43:06 AM
The list is not lagom.
 
2014-08-24 08:43:46 AM
Pleas, thank you, and excuse me have no translation in Russian. Believe it, or not.
 
2014-08-24 08:44:16 AM

mr_a: Scene in Taipei restaurant

Me: "Waiter, what is this?"
Waiter: "Sorry, there is no English word for that"
Me: "Sorry, there is an English word for everything that I eat".


Some of that.  At least this article puts forth the idea as somewhat ridiculous and mocks it.  It doesn't pretend to mystify like most of those sorts of lists do.  Language, how the fark does it work?
 
2014-08-24 08:44:26 AM
I think I can grok the idea there.
 
2014-08-24 08:44:30 AM

CruJones: The schnapsidee one seems pretty straightforward


Hold mah been n watch this."
 
2014-08-24 08:45:10 AM

CruJones: The schnapsidee one seems pretty straightforward


So does utepils.

Did anyone else watch the Grouper eats shark whole video in teh sidebar?
 
2014-08-24 08:45:15 AM
They completely missed the point of utepils. Yes, it can refer to the act of enjoying a beer outside. But it also refers to the relaxed state of being you experience when you are sitting in the sun on a comfortably mild day with a cool beer and thinking of everything and nothing at the same time and being grateful that such lovely days exist to enjoy even in Norway.

So while it is not wholly untranslatable, it requires a really convoluted word-picture to explain in English what exists as a single word in Norwegian.
 
2014-08-24 08:46:26 AM

NutWrench: Saudade
This Portuguese word crops up on lots of untranslatable lists. Writer Manuel de Melo has defined it as "a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy". To me that's a reasonable description of the concept of "nostalgia"

Or addiction.


Or "Cubs fandom".
 
2014-08-24 08:48:38 AM
Missing from list: sisu

/see perennial Fark favorite Simo Häyhä for a prime example
 
2014-08-24 08:53:40 AM
Kreislaufstörung is a peculiar medical disorder suffered exclusively by Germans. Literally translated it means something like "interruption of the circulatory system".

Of course in the rest of the known world, a disturbance to the circulatory system would usually result in you being dead within a matter of minutes. In Germany, however, it just means you can take the day off work or go to a spa for three weeks on tax-payers money.
 
2014-08-24 08:56:30 AM

Pugdaddyk: Kreislaufstörung is a peculiar medical disorder suffered exclusively by Germans. Literally translated it means something like "interruption of the circulatory system".

Of course in the rest of the known world, a disturbance to the circulatory system would usually result in you being dead within a matter of minutes. In Germany, however, it just means you can take the day off work or go to a spa for three weeks on tax-payers money.


Are you implying that Congress is German?
 
2014-08-24 09:00:09 AM

Deathfrogg: Pugdaddyk: Kreislaufstörung is a peculiar medical disorder suffered exclusively by Germans. Literally translated it means something like "interruption of the circulatory system".

Of course in the rest of the known world, a disturbance to the circulatory system would usually result in you being dead within a matter of minutes. In Germany, however, it just means you can take the day off work or go to a spa for three weeks on tax-payers money.

Are you implying that Congress is German?


Keine ahnung
 
2014-08-24 09:01:24 AM

NutWrench: Saudade
This Portuguese word crops up on lots of untranslatable lists. Writer Manuel de Melo has defined it as "a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy". To me that's a reasonable description of the concept of "nostalgia"

Or addiction.


t2.gstatic.com
 
2014-08-24 09:04:58 AM
People who work around snow do use multiple terms for different types of snow. Examples at the ski resort where I work include "Boilerplate","mashed potatoes" and "dust on crust".

/fwiw
 
2014-08-24 09:10:01 AM

ManifestDestiny: They completely missed the point of utepils. Yes, it can refer to the act of enjoying a beer outside. But it also refers to the relaxed state of being you experience when you are sitting in the sun on a comfortably mild day with a cool beer and thinking of everything and nothing at the same time and being grateful that such lovely days exist to enjoy even in Norway.

So while it is not wholly untranslatable, it requires a really convoluted word-picture to explain in English what exists as a single word in Norwegian.


"Beer at the lake"
 
2014-08-24 09:10:04 AM
There was a good book, The Meaning of Tingo, on this several years back.  I like this stuff.
 
2014-08-24 09:13:25 AM
I don't think ennui has a good synonym, nor does deja vu.  Of course, that's why we use the French words in English- if there was a perfectly good English word to use, we'd use it.
 
2014-08-24 09:14:26 AM
Subby, tu me fait chier!

/got nuttin'
 
2014-08-24 09:15:09 AM

CruJones: The schnapsidee one seems pretty straightforward


Schnapps idea.  Not only does the concept translate, the word itself translates.
 
2014-08-24 09:16:25 AM

ManifestDestiny: They completely missed the point of utepils. Yes, it can refer to the act of enjoying a beer outside. But it also refers to the relaxed state of being you experience when you are sitting in the sun on a comfortably mild day with a cool beer and thinking of everything and nothing at the same time and being grateful that such lovely days exist to enjoy even in Norway.

So while it is not wholly untranslatable, it requires a really convoluted word-picture to explain in English what exists as a single word in Norwegian.


Or, you know, "Contentment."
 
2014-08-24 09:16:52 AM

OtherLittleGuy: NutWrench: Saudade
This Portuguese word crops up on lots of untranslatable lists. Writer Manuel de Melo has defined it as "a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy". To me that's a reasonable description of the concept of "nostalgia"

Or addiction.

Or "Cubs fandom".


Or Supernatural/Sherlock/Doctor Who fandom.

I could go on...
 
2014-08-24 09:16:59 AM

Radak: Missing from list: sisu

No, pretty much every culture has some concept of a man's man's manliness and all the manly things that go with it, but all the world's men will tell you that you don't understand, because your men are pussies.  Not to mention Häyhä is not only an individual, but a remarkable and unique one at that (he's famous for a reason), so this is just dick-riding and arguably something Häyhä himself (known for his humility) wouldn't want to be part of.  You get the same effect when 101st Fighting Keyboarders elevate U.S. troops to superhero status when the guy actually wearing the uniform might say something like, "Actually, I signed up for the free education."  This sort of "my word is better than your word" probably dates back to the very first caveman grunts.  It was stupid then, and it's stupid now.

In my experience the only words that can't be translated are social constructs.  The Japanese word for "senpai", for example, has no direct translation into English.  There isn't even a word that's close by itself (though in corner cases when there's only partial context you can substitute).  The concept isn't difficult to grasp, but any attempt to translate the word accurately requires at minimum a short paragraph explaining the social context, and you can't just fit that in a word-for-word literal translation when it's just being used as a title.  Hence, it's basically untranslatable.
 
2014-08-24 09:17:34 AM
Hosers, whole lot of 'em!

eh?
 
2014-08-24 09:17:38 AM

I May Be Crazy But...: I think I can grok the idea there.


Nice
 
2014-08-24 09:19:18 AM

dragonchild: The Japanese word for "senpai"

As opposed to, say, the non-Japanese word for a Japanese social concept.

/ I'm blaming this one on too much blood in my caffeine system
 
2014-08-24 09:20:02 AM

Fano: It seems there is a translation for all of them.. is the premise what le french call, un falsehood?


Non. Tant pis.
 
2014-08-24 09:20:55 AM

The Jami Turman Fan Club: I don't think ennui has a good synonym, nor does deja vu.  Of course, that's why we use the French words in English- if there was a perfectly good English word to use, we'd use it.


Those are English words. Check any reputable English dictionary if you don't believe me. Sure, they come from French but a third of English words do. And another third seem to come from Danish. We steal words all the time. You've heard of something being a taboo, surely. That's from a Polynesian language if I remember right.

Anyway, the whole point of the article is that translation doesn't mean that there's a synonym for it, just that you can express the concept.
 
2014-08-24 09:27:19 AM

ManifestDestiny: They completely missed the point of utepils. Yes, it can refer to the act of enjoying a beer outside. But it also refers to the relaxed state of being you experience when you are sitting in the sun on a comfortably mild day with a cool beer and thinking of everything and nothing at the same time and being grateful that such lovely days exist to enjoy even in Norway.

So while it is not wholly untranslatable, it requires a really convoluted word-picture to explain in English what exists as a single word in Norwegian.


Minus the norway bit I have done that 2-4 days a week all summer.
 
2014-08-24 09:31:44 AM

dionysusaur: Did anyone else watch the Grouper eats shark whole video in teh sidebar?


Something had it out for that shark.

/That was a big-ass fish.
 
2014-08-24 09:31:53 AM

dragonchild: Radak: Missing from list: sisu
No, pretty much every culture has some concept of a man's man's manliness and all the manly things that go with it, but all the world's men will tell you that you don't understand, because your men are pussies.  Not to mention Häyhä is not only an individual, but a remarkable and unique one at that (he's famous for a reason), so this is just dick-riding and arguably something Häyhä himself (known for his humility) wouldn't want to be part of.  You get the same effect when 101st Fighting Keyboarders elevate U.S. troops to superhero status when the guy actually wearing the uniform might say something like, "Actually, I signed up for the free education."  This sort of "my word is better than your word" probably dates back to the very first caveman grunts.  It was stupid then, and it's stupid now.

In my experience the only words that can't be translated are social constructs.  The Japanese word for "senpai", for example, has no direct translation into English.  There isn't even a word that's close by itself (though in corner cases when there's only partial context you can substitute).  The concept isn't difficult to grasp, but any attempt to translate the word accurately requires at minimum a short paragraph explaining the social context, and you can't just fit that in a word-for-word literal translation when it's just being used as a title.  Hence, it's basically untranslatable.


Untrue.

If you finished the article you'd have read the section that discusses the concept of Lexical Fields. Each language likely has similar words that vary in their scope of meaning. Senpai is only difficult to translate directly because it refers to a very narrow social circumstance, but it can still be easily understood in terms of "Mentor and student" or "Senior and Junior" - or even Upperclassmen and Underclassmen. The same kind of relationship exists in the English-speaking world as well (Peppermint Patty-Senpai?), there just isn't a need to codify it through a word.
 
2014-08-24 09:32:53 AM
In English, of course, we get around this problem simply by adopting the word as is.  There's a reason the English language's vocabulary is 10 times that of any other language.
 
2014-08-24 09:34:43 AM

ajgeek: That was a big-ass fish.


imgs.xkcd.com
 
2014-08-24 09:35:22 AM
So, soon to be loan words, bon mots for fedora wearing journos.
 
2014-08-24 09:37:02 AM

Mein Fuhrer I Can Walk: ManifestDestiny: They completely missed the point of utepils. Yes, it can refer to the act of enjoying a beer outside. But it also refers to the relaxed state of being you experience when you are sitting in the sun on a comfortably mild day with a cool beer and thinking of everything and nothing at the same time and being grateful that such lovely days exist to enjoy even in Norway.

So while it is not wholly untranslatable, it requires a really convoluted word-picture to explain in English what exists as a single word in Norwegian.

Or, you know, "Contentment."


Nope. That removes the context of the state of being which is integral to the word/concept. Norwegians have a different word (also requiring a convoluted word-picture) for what you might term 'contentment'. That word is kos.
 
2014-08-24 09:46:16 AM

I May Be Crazy But...: ManifestDestiny: They completely missed the point of utepils. Yes, it can refer to the act of enjoying a beer outside. But it also refers to the relaxed state of being you experience when you are sitting in the sun on a comfortably mild day with a cool beer and thinking of everything and nothing at the same time and being grateful that such lovely days exist to enjoy even in Norway.

So while it is not wholly untranslatable, it requires a really convoluted word-picture to explain in English what exists as a single word in Norwegian.

"Beer at the lake"


Yes, exactly!  The only real difference is that  utepils can be anywhere: street cafe, your apartment balcony, on your boat in the fjord, etc. But the general sentiment is the very nearly the same as "beer at the lake".

I secretly suspect that Norwegians have all these one-word concepts because they aren't big talkers to begin with (with the exception of folks from Bergen).
 
2014-08-24 09:52:00 AM
The author probably doesn't speak any foreign languages fluently.  Almost all foreign (to any other language)  word can be  explained in a different language but there are sometimes overtones that are difficult and tedious to explain if they can be be explained at all.

I speak a little Japanese and here are a couple examples of things that don't translate well IMHO

Ganbatte:this means roughly "do your best", or "hang in there", it's used in situations where the listener is not expected to succeed, but is encouraged to keep trying hard anyhow. The English translations however have sort of a pessimistic tone (It's Thursday, hang in there, The weekend is coming) where ganbatte feels more like a seven-year-old racing a teen track star. Of course, he's not going to win, but there's no negative feeling attached to his loss.

Nama:this means, 'fresh', or 'live' , or 'raw' and is used in all sorts of contexts.  Raw, but with positive context implied. You expect your sashimi to be  at least two of these three, and your beer is better if it is nama (draft beer). For those who believe they can directly translate anything, try to describe sashimi in English and make sound delicious without tons of qualifiers -  yeah, it's raw fish but....
 
2014-08-24 09:53:24 AM

Fano: Pleas, thank you, and excuse me have no translation in Russian. Believe it, or not.


Not.
 
2014-08-24 09:59:53 AM

Pugdaddyk: Kreislaufstörung is a peculiar medical disorder suffered exclusively by Germans. Literally translated it means something like "interruption of the circulatory system".

Of course in the rest of the known world, a disturbance to the circulatory system would usually result in you being dead within a matter of minutes. In Germany, however, it just means you can take the day off work or go to a spa for three weeks on tax-payers money.


Fan death?
 
2014-08-24 10:01:39 AM

Bondith: CruJones: The schnapsidee one seems pretty straightforward

Schnapps idea.  Not only does the concept translate, the word itself translates.


Never knew this word. I am putting it into my vocabulary. With luck, I will use it tonight.
 
2014-08-24 10:03:54 AM
Yout?
 
2014-08-24 10:04:15 AM
In these parts, this is a common exchange around meal times:

Didjaeatyet?

Nope.

Sqweet.
 
2014-08-24 10:05:14 AM

ManifestDestiny: They completely missed the point of utepils. Yes, it can refer to the act of enjoying a beer outside. But it also refers to the relaxed state of being you experience when you are sitting in the sun on a comfortably mild day with a cool beer and thinking of everything and nothing at the same time and being grateful that such lovely days exist to enjoy even in Norway.

So while it is not wholly untranslatable, it requires a really convoluted word-picture to explain in English what exists as a single word in Norwegian.


Sure, but if "can't be translated" just means "translation is imperfect because slightly different nuances and cultural contexts are revealed when the terms are fully explicated" then you might as well just point to a dictionary rather than trying to make a special list of those words. You can essentially do the same thing with synonyms in a single language.
 
2014-08-24 10:12:03 AM

Radak: Missing from list: sisu

/see perennial Fark favorite Simo Häyhä for a prime example


"Shooting people while wearing white"?  What if it's after Labor Day?

/DNRTFL
 
2014-08-24 10:12:08 AM
I thought Goya means sabor.... TV lied again.
 
2014-08-24 10:16:29 AM

Lokkii: The author probably doesn't speak any foreign languages fluently.  Almost all foreign (to any other language)  word can be  explained in a different language but there are sometimes overtones that are difficult and tedious to explain if they can be be explained at all.

I speak a little Japanese and here are a couple examples of things that don't translate well IMHO

Ganbatte:this means roughly "do your best", or "hang in there", it's used in situations where the listener is not expected to succeed, but is encouraged to keep trying hard anyhow. The English translations however have sort of a pessimistic tone (It's Thursday, hang in there, The weekend is coming) where ganbatte feels more like a seven-year-old racing a teen track star. Of course, he's not going to win, but there's no negative feeling attached to his loss.

Nama:this means, 'fresh', or 'live' , or 'raw' and is used in all sorts of contexts.  Raw, but with positive context implied. You expect your sashimi to be  at least two of these three, and your beer is better if it is nama (draft beer). For those who believe they can directly translate anything, try to describe sashimi in English and make sound delicious without tons of qualifiers -  yeah, it's raw fish but....


So is ganbatte more like "have a go" or "give it a shot"?

"Sashimi" (or "sushi") is the way we do the second thing in English - approximately the same way "steak tartare" does for beef.
 
2014-08-24 10:17:28 AM
Chumble spuzz
 
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