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How do you say…

This post doesn’t have anything to do with books, but as I’m equally enamored with language itself, here’s something to think about:

This list is a good start, but I was disappointed not to find any Japanese words on here. Some of my favorites are hazukashi, meaning to be embarrassed on someone else’s behalf for their rude or ignorant societal faux pas, and shigataganai, meaning something happened that you can’t change so you will be like the willow and bend to the winds of fate rather than break (or something like that) (and yes, I guess in English you could just say, “shit happens” or “that just happened”, but there’s something about saying shigataganai with that very French shrug [yes, I said French, and if you’ve ever spent time with someone French and watched them shrug, you’ll know what I’m talking about] that feels simultaneously accepting and dismissive of the situation that I don’t think those English phrases capture). There’s also a word in Brazilian Portuguese, something like gehtozhu (sorry for butchering the spelling), that means something like someone who is a little shady and tries to get around situations in sneaky ways.

Anyone else have favorite words in another language that don’t exist in English?


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7 thoughts on “How do you say…

  1. May I just say that I not only never, ever heard of the word Waldeinsamkeit, but it also sounds so weird to me that I would mark it as incorrect if I'd discover it in one of my students essays.Weltschmerz – the pain of the worldSonja

    Posted by Anonymous | March 11, 2011, 12:14 pm
  2. Aw, say it ain't so! That was one of my favorites. So sad.

    Posted by Rebecca Fabian | March 11, 2011, 12:16 pm
  3. It ain't so…Looked it up, apparently it is a valid word (maybe I should have done that prior to my first comment?)However, the translation given on the list is incorrect. It means 'the solitude of the forest'.tageslichttauglich – literally: suitable for daylight, used to describe an average looking person

    Posted by Anonymous | March 11, 2011, 7:01 pm
  4. Thank you for the update!I like this new word you added. Though I know that's not at all what it means, the first thing that came to mind upon reading that was the American expression "coyote ugly":(as defined by situation encountered after a night of consuming alcohol whereby a person, usually male, wakes the next morning in a strange bed with a sexual partner from the previous evening who is completely physically undesirable (see ugly, nasty, two bagger) and sleeping on the man's arm. The hapless male would rather gnaw off his own arm than wake the woman and have to face the ills of his intoxicated choices the previous evening. Originating from a phenomena whereby a coyote captured in a jaw trap will chew off its own leg to escape certain death.

    Posted by Rebecca Fabian | March 11, 2011, 7:06 pm
  5. It may be some cultural bias here, but I'm always tickled by the Yiddish schlimazel, meaning literally a person who is completely without luck."A schlimazel can be concisely described as a born loser. No discussion of schlimazel could be complete without mentioning his counterpart: schlemiel, a habitual bungler. They go together: A schlemiel is one who always spills his soup, schlimazel is the one on whom it always lands." Yiddish is definitely the go-to language for insults. 🙂

    Posted by S.L. Bookworm | March 12, 2011, 4:30 pm
  6. So true! How could I forget Yiddish? My mother would be so displeased. I completely share the possible cultural bias, and thanks for adding Yiddish to the list!

    Posted by Rebecca Fabian | March 12, 2011, 6:33 pm
  7. and another one, Pech = the opposite of luckPechvogel = schlimazel (literally bird of un-luck)Glücksvogel = a born winner / the opposite of a Pechvogel (bird of luck)this is so much fun :)Sonja

    Posted by Anonymous | March 14, 2011, 3:37 pm

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