Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Lost in Translation

In yet another "now for something completely different" post...

Turns out last year, Today Translations compiled a list of the hardest words in the world to translate. The Top Ten non-English words via Wikipedia:

(1) Ilunga: Bantu language of Tshilbua for "a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time." However, there is no independent evidence that the word actually means what the translation company claims. When asked for confirmation by one reporter, representatives of the Congo government recognized the word only as a personal name. Furthermore, the translation company failed to respond to inquiries regarding the survey.

(2) Shlimazl (שלימזל): Yiddish for a chronically unlucky person.

(3) Radiostukacz: Polish for a person who worked as a telegraphist for the resistance movements on the Soviet side of the Iron Curtain. It is not a real word, only a mistake or a hoax.

(4) Naa (なぁ or なー): Japanese word only used in the Kansai (関西) area of Japan, especially in Osaka (大阪府), to emphasize statements or agree with someone.

(5) Altahmam (التهمام): Arabic for a kind of dee sadness.

(6) Gezellig: Dutch for cosy.

(7) Saudade: Portuguese for a certain type of longing.

Note: Actually came across this list while searching for the appropriate definition for "Saudade" - a word I discovered about this time last year before a trip to Southern Portugal. One of my favourites of the year, and in the running to be the name of my first boat.

(8) Selathirupavar (ெசல்லாதிருப்பவர்): Tamil for a certain type of truancy.

(9) Pochemuchka (почемучка): Russian for a person who asks a lot of questions.

(10) Klloshar: Albanian for loser.

The ten English words voted hardest to translate? Plenipotentiary, Gobbledegook, Serendipity, Poppycock, Googly, Spam, Whimsy, Bumf, Chuffed, and Kitsch.

For further fun with words, check out this excerpt from Moore's "In Other Words..."


Blogger dilettante said...

Actually, a "googly" is not that difficult to explain -- at least for those of us familiar with cricket. It is a cricketing term used to describe a delivery from a leg-spinning bowler which spins into a right-handed batsman. A googly is a ball that spins "the other way". Pretty straight-forward, no? Or, rather, eh?

10:06 PM  

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