Lost in translation

There are many things that can get lost, and new things that can emerge, while translating a text between languages. This is just one of the quirks that can be found. So, what does Çekoslovakyalılaştıramadıklarımızdanmışsınız actually mean?

For those of you who are really interested, Çekoslovakyalılaştıramadıklarımızdanmışsınız is a Turkish word-phrase (similar to those long German words) which means “You are reportedly one of those people who we could not make Czechoslovakian”, to be used after the breakup of Czechoslovakia. I don’t know why there’s a Turkish word for that, but there you go.

Yes, this is the delightful subject of untranslatable words. All around the world, languages and cultures evolve side by side. When a language meets a culture with it’s own customs, new words are needed. Absurd words, that take up a whole line of text. Words like (I’m enjoying this) Çekoslovakyalılaştıramadıklarımızdanmışsınız. And those words are often beautiful, elegant expressions for objects and emotions that we just don’t have in English. Let’s go.

Utepils – Norweigan

To sit outside on a warm day, enjoying a beer.

Aware – Japanese

The bittersweetness of a brief and fading moment of transcendent beauty.

Lítost – Czech

A state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.

Fernweh – German

The feeling of homesickness for a place you have never been to.

Komorebi – Japanese

That dappled light on the forest floor when the sunlight shines through leaves.

Tingo – Pascuenese

To gradually steal all the possessions from a neighbour’s house by borrowing and not returning items.

Jayus – Indonesian

A joke that is so not funny you can’t help but laugh.

Schnapsidee – German

An ingenious plan hatched while drunk.

Kyoikumama – Japanese

A really pushy parent who strives to maximise the academic achievement of her children.

l’espirit de l’escalier – French

When you think about what you should have said in a conversation that finished long ago.

Pochemuchka – Russian

A person who asks far too many questions.

Gökotta – Swedish

The act of waking up early in the morning with the purpose of going outside to hear the first birds sing.

Backpfeifengesicht – German

A face badly in need of a fist. Applies to most modern politicians, I believe.

So there you go. Next time you are utepils watching the komorebi around you, you will have exactly the word to describe it.

(If you speak another language that has a good untranslatable word, do put it in a comment. Then I can add it to this list.)


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