Words That Don't Translate

I’ve found this terrific site that lists words from a number of languages that are totally unique and do not have an equivalent in any other language.


Some of my favourites from my perusing so far:

Katazu - Saliva held in one’s mouth during times of tension.
Bakku-shan - A girl who appears pretty from behind but not from the front.

Voetjies-hang - A toddler’s eagerness to ride in a car.
Snotklap - Lit. Snot Smack, to smack someone in the face so hard that snot comes out of their nose.

Paluego - A tiny bit of food that’s stuck between your teeth that you fish out with your tongue and eat afterwards.
Pagafantas - A guy who is trying to hook up with a girl, who ignores him, paying for her every whim.

I mentioned this years ago, but when the movie Jaws was in theaters, the Germans had to call it Summer of the White Death because they have no word for JAWS. :astonished:

Kiefer. means Jaw. But the connotation isn’t there.

Schadenfreude is a commonly used German word, as English has no single word that means the same. blitzkrieg doppelgänger zeitgeist

alfresco, cognoscenti= Italy

sangfroid= France.

In French it was Les Dents de la Mer (the teeth of the sea). And “Blackhawk (a product tradename) Down” was " La Chute du faucon noir" in French.

It does show that skilled translation isn’t just 1:1 word-for-word substitution.

I believe these are called “simps” in English.

In Hungarian, csengőfrász (“doorbell fear”) is the anxiety people felt in the Stalinist era that the political police might come at any time and arrest them.

Now, that I like – elegant and menacing at the same time.

Many German words require a whole paragraph to state in English. This is merely due, of course, to the German habit of writing whole paragraphs of words without spaces separating them.

A composite of バック (bakku, “back”, from English back ) +‎ シャン (shan, “beautiful”, from German schön )

and the meaning is given as a dated slang.

I asked some Japanese middle aged friends who haven’t heard of the term.

Apparently, it’s being now reinvented as a fashion term for having more ornate design on the back of clothing rather than the original meaning, and is now a positive word.

That must be an urban legend, as both statements are false. First, jaws has the perfectly cromulent translation of “Kiefer”, and second the film is called “Der weiße Hai” in Germany, which just means “The White Shark”.

Not that anyone asked me to, but I just spent 20 minutes trying to find anything to back me up re: Summer of the White Death. I have found NOTHING. All the German JAWS posters say Der Weisse Hai (The White Shark) [dullsville]. Maybe those were re-release adverts? I saw SotWD referred to in a local newspaper article at the time, and that’s all I can offer for a cite.

Here’s the German wiki. Trust me, it was always called “Der weiße Hai” from the start, never “Sommer des weißen Todes”.

ETA: google “Sommer des weißen Todes”, and you find nothing.

The kicker is I can’t find SotWD referenced anywhere. How dare the Baltimore Sun (re-)print such rubbish!

I’m curious, Hund, is “Kiefer” singular, plural or both, and why didn’t Germany use “Kiefer” in their advertising?

And as an aside “Jaws Sutherland”? :smile:

It’s both singular and plural, there are the “Unterkiefer” (lower jaw) and “Oberkiefer” (upper jaw), and both are the “Kiefer”. Why that’s not the German name of the movie, well, that’s complicated. German distributors have a habit of giving foreign films different names than the actual translation, sometimes very weird or inane ones, and a movie title just consisting of one catchy word like “Jaws” wasn’t a thing yet in 1975. I suspect that the suits thought that people would have thought of a documentary about dental work if they had called it “Kiefer”, and that wouldn’t have been a successful strategy.

ETA: an important point also is that “Kiefer” or jaws doesn’t provoke the indication of a predator in German, as I said it’s more referential to dentists.

It’s been a loooooooong time since Junior High German class, so most of that wikipedia item went over my head, but I know what “Krieg der Sterne”* means: I have a CD of John Williams music and it has English, German and French footnotes and track titles – let the others figure it out.

And, thanks for the explanation/German lesson; I will stop spreading that ugly German Jaws spiel.

*War (of) the Stars.

Yeah, that is one example from the times when the translation was literal and exact. Nowadays, with many more Germans knowing English than almost 50 years ago, they often don’t even bother anymore and release the German versions of the movies under their original English titles.

Well, without starting an international incident, I’ve always admired the way the German language is constructed; they’re not afraid to stick English words into their syntax(?), unlike some other languages I could mention, mon frère.

Well, there are some people here who still wail and cry about the infiltration of the German language by English (Denglish), but those are mostly old farts (older farts than me) who are too dumb to learn a bit of English or else to google the things they don’t understand. At least we haven’t made the pureness of our language a governmental issue like our dear neighbors.

Not only that, but any time Germans are interviewed on TV, they speak English better than me do. :rofl:

One of my favorite lines from MASH (TV): Frank, the R-E-D speaks English better than Y-O-U do.

My wife is telling me to get off the computer. Scheissen!