Terms Considered Difficult or Impossible to Translate Into English

8 Aug

Every so often, my brain shorts out toward the end of my work day, and I fall into an internet hole and find poetry at the bottom. This Wikipedia entry on terms that don’t translate is possibly the ultimate example of one of those holes.

A few examples:

cafuné: Brazilian Portuguese. The act of fondling someone’s hair.

pinchar: Spanish. To call a mobile phone once and hang up, either so that the other person can call you back and save money, or so that they can store your phone number. Could also mean to sting, flirt (or be flirted at), puncture, pierce, prick, or fuck. (I can see how the progression worked from puncture, but I’m wondering who was the first person to suggest that someone, uh, pierce their phone by calling it once, if you see what I mean.)

Sitzriese: German. A person who appears tall when sitting.

saudade: Galician or Portuguese. The feeling of missing something or someone.

Language is amazing and beautiful and enough of a miracle for anyone, really.

saudade

Image: Basilievich/Flickr

One Response to “Terms Considered Difficult or Impossible to Translate Into English”

  1. Eric August 22, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    I’ll add my favorite of the difficult-to-translate set: kummerspeck (lit: grief bacon), German, “Excess weight gained due to emotional overeating.”

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