Those little lexical gaps

Not true.

A mí me gusta Ana. (she’s my friend, literally “Ann pleases me”, the verb is related to English “gustatory”. Note that Ana is the subject here. No, she is not “pleasing” you that way!)
A mí me encanta Ana. (Literally, “Ann enchants me”, much stronger <3).
Yo amo a Ana. (Literally, “I love Ann.” The verb is related to amour)

This is true in Spanish as well.

Necesitamos hacer el trabajo. (“We need to do the work.”)
Necesitamos hacer un pastel. (“We need to make a cake.”)

It’s true that “that” can mean both near the person spoken to or far away from both speaker and person spoken to, but if you need the context, you can use “yonder” to mean far away from both speaker and spoken to.

This thing is red.
That thing is blue.
Yonder thing is green.

Conversely, some of the Spanish words which get translated as “funny” don’t quite mean the same and I got pitted once for a problem with that kind of translation.

Morriña is a Galego/Spanish word referring to a specific kind of homesickness. As a friend once put it, “nostalgia is when you miss something which was never really there, like when the old folks talk about ‘olden times’ forgetting that they didn’t have arthritis but also didn’t have running water; morriña is when you miss the smells of home, your mother’s cooking, the color of the soil.” The celts do morriña well; it is present in English in many musical traditions with heavy celtic influence.

There’s a whole collection of words English got from Spanish but which don’t quite mean the same in both languages; sometimes the English meaning gets extra words in Spanish, sometimes it exists in Spanish but it’s not the most common one; sometimes it’s the most common one in a dialect of Spanish but not in the one into which or from which you are translating. Fiesta, siesta, arroyo, playa, mesa… I’m currently reading a book which treats bolas as a singular name, in Spanish it’s plural. Translating some of those can be a royal pain in the ass, since you get people who know the word exists in both languages expecting that you will leave it the same, but sometimes the difference in meaning would mean that doing so distorts said meaning.

Spanish doesn’t have a word for elope that I know. Explaining the concept is actually quite difficult… I mean, it’s not as if the people eloping are not getting married, they’re getting married without a big wedding. So? They’re still having a wedding, and it’s not quite the same as a secret wedding… and it’s not a shotgun wedding either… it’s just confusing. Then again, the concept of “we wanna have sex but it’s a sin if we’re not married so we need to get married yesterday” isn’t exactly easy to explain either, most Hispanics will just fuck - worst case scenario, the bride has a “four month hepatitis but it’s not contagious”.

OTOH, the concept of la legítima is complicated to explain in English. La legítima is the legally-recognized wife, but the use of the word implies that the other women/wives (in Spanish it’s the same word) aren’t exactly unrecognized… just not as recognized; they’re not recognized by law, but they are recognized socially. María Leszczynska was Louis XV’s legítima - how many people recognize the name? And how many, that of Madame de Pompadour?

If the Israeli people I’ve met are typical, they don’t have much need of it.

My wife mentioned that she was having a problem finding a Spanish word for “too” in the sense of “excessively” – e.g., “That coffee is still too hot to drink.” Is there, in fact, such a word in Spanish?


Este cafe hace demasiado calor para beberlo. which should be "this coffee is too hot to drink. But my spanish is rustier than a gate in monsoon season.

The Spanish for that one is estrenar. The first show of a play or movie is its estreno as well.

Esperar con (muchas) ganas isn’t anywhere near as long as your backtranslation, you know (“to await with (great) expectation”).

Este café está demasiado caliente para beberlo.

Hacer calor refers to the weather; estar caliente, to objects (do not use for people, as then it can mean to be in heat).

Related words: más, more. De más, excessively, in excess: me dio 3 pesetas de más, he gave me 3 pesetas more than he should have.

I understand that some languages have different words for “an inside corner” and “an outside corner”. That seems sensible.

I have also been bothered by that thread about a word that means “for a man to die in battle” but also “for a woman to die in childbirth”. There really oughta be a language with a word like that. I mean, plenty of literature has sentiments of that sort. Why isn’t there a verb?

Gracias. You would think with all the tripping I’ve done over these verbs in school, they’d have sunk in but clearly they have not.

There is a Japanese word, 余裕 yoyuu, which means “spare” as in room, time or money to spare. If you don’t have extra money or time, the word can be used to decline an invitation.

That usage is OK, but it’s also used for spare “emotional energy” for want of a better description. It’s great for explaining why you can’t take on any further commitments or why you are feeling uptight.

Both Japanese and Mandarin don’t have words for “in-law.” You have to say “your (wife’s) parents”.

Japanese also doesn’t have a word for step-father, although they do for step-mother.

Languages are more and less mappable lexically. But propositionally they are equivalent, meaning that you can say anything in one language that you can in another–just not with the one-to-one correspondence of what we define as “words.”

Interestingly, languages are overall equal in propositional length (in time). It generally takes the same amount of time to express something in one language as in any other. (Again overall.) Even Sign Languages, with completely different and far grosser articulators, expresses any proposition in roughly the same amount of time as spoken languages.

Up until a generation or so ago, I think “eloping” carried a strong connotation of “running off to get married because the parents would not approve”. The idea is that they can’t do anything about it once the deed is done, and so will be forced to accept the new family member with good grace. I don’t think it has anything to do with sex, unless you think all marriage is primarily about sex.

Surely there are couples with disapproving parents in Spain? Whether or not their is a word for it, I would think the need to run off, get married, and hope the first grandchild soothes the problem is pretty universal.

Yes, but they either get married or move in. I’ve known cases who provoked a shotgun wedding back in the 60s or 70s (we call it a “penalty wedding” both because it’s “a punishment for getting pregnant outside of wedlock” and because the “main goal of marriage” is almost sure to be obtained, same as in a soccer penalty kick); they wanted to get married already after several years’ courtship, and would have had to wait 2-3 years more to be able to do so without her parents’ consent. But there simply isn’t a legal equivalent to doing a Romeo and Juliette - bans are required for an RCC wedding, and for a civil one, nowadays if the parents don’t agree it’s the parents’ problem, so long as both spouses are of legal age. Note that we also do not have marriage licenses, nor a setup where you can run to the next province over to get a wedding under lesser legal requirements than where you live.
My great-great-grandmother got married against her parents wishes and they disinherited her, but she still got married with all proper paperwork and in the presence of any relatives and friends who weren’t being assholes about the issue. One of my cousins invited his parents and brothers out to dinner and then took them to City Hall, where his gf had also brought her parents and sister: later they sent postcards to the family informing us of the marriage; we called it “the unannounced wedding”, but both sets of parents were present; given his usual style, it was a lot more in character than a shinding with 400 people like his next brother had.

Anyway, another one: the preposition de. Prepositions are a bitch in general, mind you.

It’s not that its meanings don’t exist in other languages, but that little bugger has a ton of meanings and people tend to translate it as a possessive exclusively. I think it may be the word with more meanings in the Spanish dictionary, and it’s also one of the shortest ones! Copying the DRAE entry and adding translations:

  1. prep. Denota posesión o pertenencia. La casa de mi padre. La paciencia de Job. Belonging to, ownership. My father’s house, Job’s patience.
  2. prep. U. para crear diversas locuciones adverbiales de modo. Almorzó de pie. Le dieron de puñaladas. Se viste de prestado. Lo conozco de vista. Part of several modal phrases: he had lunch standing up (on his feet), they knifed him (they gave him knifewounds), he wears borrowed clothes (dresses by borrowing), I know him by sight only.
  3. prep. Denota de dónde es, viene o sale alguien o algo. La piedra es de Colmenar. Vengo de Aranjuez. No sale de casa. Indicating where something comes or exits from: stone from Colmenar, I hail from Aranjuez, he doesn’t leave the house.
  4. prep. Denota la materia de que está hecho algo. El vaso de plata. El vestido de seda. Indicating the material from which something is made. The silver glass (glass of silver); the silk dress.
  5. prep. U. para señalar lo contenido en algo. Un vaso de agua. Un plato de asado. Indicates something’s content. A glass of water. A plate of stew.
  6. prep. Denota asunto o materia. Este libro trata de la última guerra. Una clase de matemáticas. Hablaban de la boda. Indicating the subject. This book is about the last war. A mathematics lesson. They were talking about the wedding.
  7. prep. Denota la causa u origen de algo. Murió de viruelas. Fiebre del heno. Indicating the cause or origin: he died from smallpox, hayfever.
  8. prep. U. para expresar la naturaleza, condición o cualidad de alguien o algo. Hombre de valor. Entrañas de fiera. Describing the nature, condition or qualities. A man of great daring. The guts of a fierce beast.* * In the sense of, well, metaphorical cojones if you’ll pardon the pun.
  9. prep. U. para determinar o fijar con mayor viveza la aplicación de un nombre apelativo. El mes de noviembre. La ciudad de Sevilla. To reinforce the usage of a noun as an adjective: the month of november, the city of Seville.
  10. prep. desde (‖ con idea de punto en el espacio o en el tiempo). De Madrid a Toledo. Abierto de nueve a una. From (indicating a point in space or time). From Madrid to Toledo. Open from nine to one.
  11. prep. U. precedida de sustantivo, adjetivo o adverbio, y seguida de infinitivo. Es hora de caminar. Harto de trabajar. Lejos de pensar. Used after a noun, adjective or adverb and followed by an infinitive. It’s time to walk. Sick of working. Far from thinking.
  12. prep. U. seguida de infinitivo con valor condicional. De saberlo antes, habría venido. Followed by an infinitive indicating a condition. If I’d known it beforehand, I would have come.
  13. prep. U. precedida de un verbo para formar perífrasis verbales. Dejó de estudiar. Acaba de llegar. Used after a verb to form phrasal verbs. He stopped studying. He’s just arrived.
  14. prep. U. con ciertos nombres para determinar el tiempo en que sucede algo. De madrugada. De mañana. De noche. De viejo. De niño. Used with some nouns to describe the time when something happens. In the wee hours. In the morning. By night. As an old man. As a child.
  15. prep. U. para reforzar un calificativo. El bueno de Pedro. El pícaro del mozo. La taimada de la patrona. Used to reinforce an adjective. Good old Pedro. That rogue boy. That cunning landlady.
  16. prep. U. como nota de ilación. De esto se sigue. De aquello se infiere. Part of a conjunction. From this, it follows. From that, we deduce.
  17. prep. U. con valor partitivo. Dame un poco de agua. Used to indicate a part. Give me a bit of water.
  18. prep. Denota la rápida ejecución de algo. De UN trago se bebió la tisana. De UN salto se puso en la calle. Acabemos de UNA vez. Indicating quick execution. He drank the herbal tea in one gulp. He got to the street in one jump. Let’s finish already.
  19. prep. U. entre distintas partes de la oración con expresiones de lástima, queja o amenaza. ¡Pobre de mi hermano! ¡Ay de los vencidos! Used in different parts of a sentence with a meaning of pity, complaint or threat. My poor brother! Woe to the conquered ones!
  20. prep. U. para la creación de locuciones prepositivas a partir de adverbios, nombres, etc. Antes de. Respecto de. Alrededor de. A diferencia de. Used to create prepositional phases in combination with adverbs, nouns, etc. Before. With respect to. Around. Unlike.
  21. prep. U. también combinada con otras preposiciones. De a tres. De a bordo. De por sí. Por de pronto. Tras de sí. Used in combination with other prepositions. Three abreast. Onboard. By its very nature. For starters. Behind himself.
  22. prep. U. en ciertas construcciones con el agente de la pasiva. Acompañado de sus amigos. Dejado de la mano de Dios. Está abrumado de deudas. Used in some constructions with the passive voice’s agent. In the company of his friends. Abandoned by God’s hand/looking like Death warmed over. Indebted up to his neck.
  23. prep. U. para introducir el término de la comparación. He comido más de lo debido. Es peor de lo que pensaba. Ahora escribe más de veinte artículos al año. Used to introduce the term of reference in a comparison. I’ve eaten more than I should have. It’s worse than I thought. He now writes over 20 articles per year. (I think the Academics slipped on this last one :dubious:)
  24. prep. con (‖ con idea de medio, modo o instrumento para hacer algo). Lo hizo de intento. With (a means, method or instrument to do something). He did it on purpose.
  25. prep. para. Gorro de dormir. Ropa de deporte. For. Sleeping cap. Sports clothing.
  26. prep. por. Lo hice de miedo. Because of. I did it out of fear. (Note that the same sentence can be a colloquial expression meaning “I did it perfectly.”)
  27. prep. ant. a2. Archaic, to (the linked article has 23 meanings).
    ~ ti a mí, ~ usted a mí, etc. from you to me, etc.
  28. locs. advs. coloqs. Entre los dos, o para entre los dos. between both or to be placed between both

Did you find that somewhere as a reference or did you have it all in your head? :wink:

At the top, she has a link to the relevant page from the online version of the Real Academia Espanola’s dictionary.

Such a stickler. I was just joshing her–she often seems just that knowledgeable.

Russian doesn’t have a word for “grandparents” - one would instead say “grandmother and grandfather” (бабушки и дедушки)

And with the word from the OP, “enjoy”, there’s no straightforward translation for “He enjoys good health”. He has good health would be used instead.

I’m curious how that works. Do Finns use prepositions to indicate which direction the money is being transferred? How does it work as a noun? Do you just figure out who owes who from the context?

It’s the same in Russian. Let’s say the word that means both is “loan”. You say “I loaned from him” when you borrow or “I loaned to him” when you loan. As a noun, you either “take a loan” or you “give a loan” - just like in English. There really is no need for two verbs.

Here’s one within the English language. There’s no term in American English for the British (and Australian) word “biscuit”, and there’s no term in British English for the American word “biscuit”. For British “biscuits” an American might say “cookies and crackers”, while a British person would have to resort to something like “what the Americans call biscuits, which are a bit like scones, but get eaten with the main meal”, since the American concept pf a biscuit is unknown in Britain.

Some other surprising examples: Italian has no term for the English word “nut”. German has no single term for the English word “student” – in German, “ein Schüler” goes to school and “ein Student” goes to college or university.

Familial relations words differ greatly from language to language. Some languages have a word for every relation. Some use phrases to indicate relationship. Russian doesn’t have one word for “cousin” (well, there is one from French, but it is considered a bit pretentious and wouldn’t be used in everyday speech). But does have one for “nephew”. Go figure.

“He enjoys good health” is really an idiomatic use of “enjoy”, so no surprise it wouldn’t be translated that way. There is a word in Russian that covers some aspects of “enjoy” (“наслаждаться”) but it is a lot stronger than the English word.