Words That Don't Translate

Du musst scheissen? Good reason to get off the computer :grin:. (sorry, couldn’t resist)

Now that you mention it… .

That happens frequently in Japanese, but apparently not as much in Chinese.

Thanks that quite interesting.

How about le weekend or les hotdogs?

WIth the French accent, that’s adorable: “lays ot’dog”…

At what point would we say that English does have such a word, and that word is “schadenfreude”? After all, many English words were adopted from other languages.

(I’m not sure we’re there yet with “schadenfreude.” Maybe the test is whether people commonly use it without putting it in italics or quotation marks or explaining what it means.)

It’s certainly passed that test in my circle of friends (though these days, I hang out with folks here much more than my 3D friends).

Schadenfreude is such a perfect, useful word, that if English didn’t adopt it, we’d have to come up with something, And I’m sure it wouldn’t be as good.

Kindergarten, zeitgeist, blitzkrieg - they can’t be improved by englishifying them.

Paging @EinsteinsHund

I remember being told there was an excellent German word - something maybe like vorbeisprechen - which is used to describe a “conversation” between two people who are both talking (simultaneously) but neither is listening to the other.

Any ideas?


Yes, “aneinander vorbeisprechen” means exactly that.

ETA: but there’s an English expression for the same issue: talking past each other.

Now that’s what I call service. Thanks!


Yeah, you make a point. It’s close.

I always liked Bantu’s Mbuki-Mvuki, which freely translated means “That desire buried in everyone to sometimes just want to tear your clothes off and dance.”

Could of course also be about the threat of a pine falling on you or something like that…

I have missed this the first time: there’s that beautiful English word for that phenomenon: butterface.

I’ve always liked the Japanese concept of Wabi-sabi. I wish it was something we in the West had in our culture.

Me too, but the closest we have is Bob Ross’ “happy accidents.”

What’s wrong with one of my favourite words - Serendipity

Another favourite is susurration which I once heard defined as the sound of one silk stocking sliding over another.

One of the great features of German is that concatenation of words. Just take the prefix scheiß, for shit - scheissegal for “I don’t give a shit”, scheißwetter for really crappy weather, scheißfreundlichkeit for fake friendliness. Genius stuff.

I believe that means something discovered by accident; something worthwhile (although the original story of the three princes of Serendip was more about the powers of deduction).

Wabi-sabi is about releasing the creative process from the limitations of ones total control, regardless of how skilled ones craftsmanship may be (and for a perfectionist culture as Japan’s, this is essential to curtail madness). Or the cracked mug that makes it *your * mug; the imperfections that make your loved one endearing. The opposite of a term from South America: boligrafo, Spanish for ball-point pen, but used for people who won’t draw outside the lines.