Don’t let the title fool you. ‘Untranslatable words’ is just an easier way of saying ‘words that don’t have a direct equivalent in another language’. But that doesn’t roll of your tongue as much.
This could be translated as unwanted kindness. Specifically, it describes a situation in which someone tries to do you a favor, despite you not wanting it, and consequently causing you additional trouble or just not helping you at all, but you are expected to express gratitude nevertheless due to social conventions. A truly Japanese word in every sense.
Untranslatable Words: Sobremesa – Spanish
This word literally means ‘over the table’, but it signifies the period after a meal when the people sitting at the table continue to talk and enjoy each other’s company. Not an important word if you have no friends.
Sobremesa can also mean tablecloth.
Untranslatable Words: Zapoi – Russian
This Russian word is used to express continuous drinking for several days, so much so that the person withdraws from their normal social life. Sounds fun.
Used metaphorically to describe a person who acts like a coward by criticizing and attacking only from a safe distance. Literally, it means a person throwing snowballs while wearing their gloves. In both cases – a pansy.
Everything feels much better when you have a word for what you're doing. Since utepils means enjoying a cold beer outside on a sunny day, our non-working weekends during the bright and warm days can feel much more meaningful.
Untranslatable Words: Trepverter – Yiddish
Another one of those words we absolutely need in our language. This one, particularly, signifies a witty comeback that you think of when it’s already too late. It literally means ‘staircase words’.
Untranslatable Words: Gökotta – Swedish
One of those words we didn’t know we need in our lives. Gökotta is used in Swedish to express the action of rising at dawn to listen to the birds sing. I don’t like to wake up early for anything, but you go Swedes.
Untranslatable Words: Gattara – Italian
We would translate it as ‘(crazy) cat lady’, that is, a woman who owns many cats or devotedly feeds stray cats.
Untranslatable Words: Gigil – Filipino
You know that feeling you get when you see a puppy or a baby so cute you want to pinch it? Well, that’s gigil. Now you know. It can be anything adorable, not just those two things. You’re welcome.
Untranslatable Words: Mencolek – Indonesian
Practically everyone tried to pull this trick on their friends when they were kids, we just didn’t have a name for it. The trick when you tap someone in front of you on the opposite shoulder than the one you intend to approach them from. A simple, yet effective way to humiliate your buddy.
This one is my favorite. It means to continuously borrow stuff from a friend without returning it, until the friend is left with nothing. The fascinating thing about it is that it obviously happens so often there that they need a word for it.
You know what’s awful? Having to spend your money on things you want. Why not just find a friend and take their belongings? Profit.
There you go. A bunch of untranslatable words you will never use, apart from maybe saying ‘do you know there is a word in ___ meaning____’ in order to sound smarter. +100 Intelligence.
"I hate when people don't know the difference between your and you're. Their so stupid!", was one of our recent Facebook posts and many of you have agreed that English can be quite complicated, although we all think we know it perfectly. So today we are bringing you a few English language tips and tricks! This blog post is a friendly reminder of when to use who and whom, what’s the difference among this, that, these and those and some other English language nuances that can make a big difference.
Let’s start with something easy, take a look at the table below:
Why does this table help you understand the difference immediately? If you can replace WHO with any of the subject pronouns underneath it, you have a correct sentence. The same applies to the use of WHOM. This is because WHO is one of the subject pronouns, and WHOM is one of the object pronouns. Here are a few examples:
We have the exact same thing in Croatian. Here:
You see, it’s actually quite simple in Croatian as well.
The picture above will help you find your way around this and that, these and those. As soon as you imagine that THIS and THESE are for all objects that are near you, and THAT and THOSE for all objects farther away from you, everything will become crystal clear.
For example: If you want to say you like someone’s shirt, and that person is standing next to you, you will say:
And if that person is standing at the other end of the room, you will say:
We have the same thing in Croatian with pronouns “ovaj, taj, onaj”. We should use “ovaj” when something is near us, “taj” when something is next to the person we are talking to, and “onaj” when talking about something that is far away or out of sight. They are called proximal, medial and distal in Croatian language. Appropriate, isn’t it?
The difference between THAN and THEN is huge and it makes a significant difference in a sentence. THAN is used for making comparisons, while THEN is used as a time conjunction. This is something that is mostly familiar so here are only two examples:
There are some sentences we need to be careful about. In the examples above, even if the word is spelled incorrectly, we know what someone wanted to say. This is not the case with the phrase RATHER THAN / RATHER THEN. Let’s take a look:
The first sentence means that you prefer pizza to hamburger, and that you would rather eat the former. The second sentence, however, means that you have a good appetite, and that you would eat pizza first, and a hamburger after the pizza. Here is a little reminder:
Let’s try to explain this in the easiest way possible. THAT gives essential information and is used WITHOUT A COMMA. WHICH does not limit the meaning of the sentence. If we remove it, we lose details but not the meaning. It is separated WITH COMMAS. Check out the example bellow:
This means that he DID read the newspapers, just not the ones that came today. If we remove “that came today”, the sentence would have a completely different meaning. It would only state that he didn’t read the newspapers.
Check out the next sentence:
This means that he didn’t read the newspapers, and that those newspapers he didn’t read came today. If we remove “which came today”, the meaning of the sentence wouldn’t be changed. He didn’t read the newspapers either way, WHICH only explains what kind of papers they are à today’s / new newspapers.
We have the same thing in Croatian, even though we don’t express it with a different word, we express it only with commas. Look at the examples:
The first sentence means that he did read the newspapers, just not the ones that came today. Maybe he read those from yesterday or two days ago. The second sentence means that he didn’t read the newspapers, and what kind of newspapers were they. Meaning that, if we remove the part of the sentence after the comma, we would lose some details but not the meaning of the sentence.
To conclude, English and Croatian languages are not that different as it may appear at first glance. The most important thing is to UNDERSTAND these rules and question their use in sentences when you are not sure what to use. A few tricks have been listed but if you have a couple more, feel free to share your knowledge with us!
How much do you know about translating and are you aware of the astonishing impact it has on society? Find out some of the most memorable events influenced by translation mistakes.
As you may or may not know, St. Jerome is the patron saint of translators, librarians and encyclopedists, famous for spending 23 years of his life translating the Bible into Latin. But the interesting part is that he made a mistake while translating. The original Hebrew used the word keren or qaran, which can mean either horn or a ray of light, the former being more common. This led to Moses suddenly being “horned” in the Bible, as well as in other works of art from that time, such as in Michelangelo’s Moses.
In 2004, several hospital staff were found guilty of manslaughter after improperly managing radiation machines, which were previously upgraded. Instruction manuals of those machines were in English, but the staff was French. There were mistakes in calculating the dosage, which led to 450 cancer patients being improperly treated over the course of 4 years, resulting in 7 patient deaths.
A translation error once left a man paralyzed. In 1980, Willie Ramirez, Cuban-American baseball star, arrived at a hospital suffering from a headache, falling in and out of consciousness. His family described his condition as intoxicado, which is a false friend of intoxicated, the former meaning poisoned and the latter meaning affected by alcohol or drugs. The doctors treated Ramirez as if he were suffering a drug overdose, while failing to notice a hemorrhage. This left him paralyzed, and the hospital had to pay $71 million in damages. Translating and interpreting is not a joke!
On that same note, it is believed that a translation mistake is actually the cause of the sad fate of Hiroshima. In 1945, the Allies sent a declaration demanding Japan’s unconditional surrender. The Prime Minister of Japan replied that he currently refrained from comments. He used the word mokusatsu, which can be interpreted in several different ways. Media and translators interpreted the word as “treat with silent contempt” or “ignore”, which was understood as an arrogant rejection or not worthy of a comment. Ten days later, the atomic bomb was launched on Hiroshima, instantaneously killing more than 70,000 people and 100,000 more as a result of radiation and destruction.
On a lighter note, Pepsi had some branding issues due to translation. The slogan in the original language was “Come alive with Pepsi”, but comical translations led to a drop in sales when it was shipped off to China. The Chinese allegedly interpreted the slogan as “bringing your ancestors back from the dead”. The Chinese also translated KFC’s “Finger lickin’ good” slogan into “eat your fingers off”. This shows how precise and considerate one must be when coming up with advertisements and slogans.
Finally, a translation mistake for which the entire science fiction genre is grateful. Astronomer Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli started mapping the surface of Mars. This included seas, continents and… channels – which he called canali. This was then translated as canals, which implied that, not only that life on Mars existed, but also that its population is advanced enough to build canals. Some of the great early science fiction works were inspired by those canali.
Translation mistakes happen, but when the stakes are high, “choosing your words carefully” has a whole new meaning. It just goes to show that you shouldn’t joke around with translations, regardless of the seemingly frivolous project. Take every single translating project as seriously as possible!