Better than loanwords: untranslatable words

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Friday, February 22nd, 2013 In Fun stuff, Translation By Stephanie

You were saying?

English is not the only language with its own share of untranslatable words: “spam” and “serendipity” are such, just to name but a few; and I would not venture to translate “googly” for any non English speaking cricket fans! That said, let’s go and have a look at this indescribable universe of words… My favourite comes from Buli (Ghana), and is “pelinti” which means to turn around hot food inside your mouth. This describes the feeling you get when biting into a (much too) hot pizza and your eyes start watering, you head sort of tilts, you open your mouth and make an agonising noise sounding like “haarrghhh”. In short, Ghanaians have a word for that. In Georgia, life is a long and calm river. So long in fact, that there is a word for the day after tomorrow: “zeg”. Who would have thought of that? As for our Swedish pals, they will say “lagom” when something is just right, not too much, not too little, not too sweet or too tart. Have you ever felt “tartled” in your life? It’s the horrible and embarrassing feeling arousing when introducing somebody whose name you’ve forgotten. Apparently, the Scots are quite famous in this discipline since they’ve invented a word for it! At the end of the day, if you are feeling “greng-jai”* for yourself when facing a translation or having to do content writing, contact us! *Thai word describing the feeling you get when you are reluctant to ask somebody to do something for you because it is a real pain.    

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