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Words that exist in only one language.
Thread poster: Henry Dotterer
Henry Dotterer
Local time: 11:11
SITE FOUNDER
Jun 24, 2001

As an extension of my \"untranslatables\" topic, I am interested in hearing about words that may be unique to one language.



I\'ll start with a few terms from Japanese:



wabi + sabi



From Wabi-Sabi:

for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers




Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

It is a beauty of things modest and humble.

It is a beauty of things unconventional.



...



I do not have a good grasp of what either wabi or sabi really mean to a person born and raised in Japan. As for what they mean to me, it is this: that beauty can be born from imperfection, and that there may be greatness in subtlety.



A Japanese pottery artist will create a perfect, symmetrical tea cup, and then make a dent in it with his thumb before firing. Without this imperfection, the cup would not have the same character or beauty.



...



Can anyone offer other language-specific words?


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Boonpak
Local time: 22:11
English to Thai
+ ...
Kreng Jai (Thai) Jun 29, 2001

\" Kreng Jai \" In Thai

I\'m not sure whether there is any equal word in English. But I once heard one westerner say \" I can\'t find this word in my language \" or sth .

When your friend offer to make you a cup of tea. This feeling \"Kreng Jai\" might happen in your mind. Not because you don\'t want a cup of tea. But you feel that your friend don\'t need to spend their effort for your own affair.

If there is a word in English equal to this word plz let me know ( by postings)


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Fevziye Gündoğdu
Local time: 18:11
Turkish to English
+ ...
gönül (Turkish) Jul 8, 2001

It is difficult to translate languages that are coming from a different cultural background into each other. We have this difficult when we are learning european languages. In turkish, words about the spiritual world are more complicated than other european languages. Well, it is still somewhere in between europe and asia and the language roots are different from all its neighbours. So I believe this would be more difficult, say when you consider chineese and English. And maybe it would be easier when you consider japanese and turkish. Although we are not as tranquil as them



The example I want to give is \"gönül\" in Turkish. The only word we can use for it is \"heart\". But heart is the translation for \"yürek\" or \"kalp\" BUt gönül is something deeper, belonging to the inner yourself, belonging to that energy that is in you. Ýt is wider as well. When you say gönül, consider the hearts of all being united and collected in your heart because your whish is for their well being.



There is \"lacivert\" meaning dark blue. But we call dark blue to a colour lighter than \"lacivert\" There are various other colours that can be indicated by two words in english.



Well, I don\'t need to mention the technical superiority of the european languages over turkish, I guess. We simply use most of them as we pronounce them.

yours,

deniz


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:11
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jul 20, 2001

A fertile field in which to look for untranslateable words is anthropology. Where the concept or the object named does not exist, or did not exist originally, there won\'t be likely to be a native word for it. I was thinking of the neologisms in Arabic and South-east Asian languages when it comes to naming common furniture items such as tables (tabula in Lybia and lamesa in the Philippines), knives and forks; what more the abstract concepts (tenets of art or ethics, systems of philosophy, etc.) There are quite a lot out there, which in translation end up as fascinating footnotes.

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Fevziye Gündoğdu
Local time: 18:11
Turkish to English
+ ...
Jul 23, 2001

Quote:


On 2001-07-20 11:16, Parrot wrote:

A fertile field in which to look for untranslateable words is anthropology. Where the concept or the object named does not exist, or did not exist originally, there won\'t be likely to be a native word for it. I was thinking of the neologisms in Arabic and South-east Asian languages when it comes to naming common furniture items such as tables (tabula in Lybia and lamesa in the Philippines), knives and forks; what more the abstract concepts (tenets of art or ethics, systems of philosophy, etc.) There are quite a lot out there, which in translation end up as fascinating footnotes.



Hello,



Although I have mentioned the superiority of the european languages over turkik/asian languages in technical field, I didn\'t mean to say that they are untranslatable. Just the opposite. A native speaker can easily create a new term for a created term in a foreign language. I guess, there are many terms translated into turkish yet, because of an inferiority feeling, scientists prefer using terms in English. I don\'t think anthropology did exist originally, am I wrong? Languages live and transform like people/cultures. As needed, words are created or altered.



I think, what you cannot translate is the culture. Terms related with unique features of that community. Terms related with how that community perceives the world .Like \"fish and chips\" in English. Or other examples given here. If science is real, it can be expressed in any language and in any culture.



yours

deniz gundogdu

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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:11
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jul 25, 2001

Hi Deniz,

I don\'t like using the terms \"superior\" or \"inferior\"; I prefer the term \"developmental\" (and English is developmental as far as the newest new technologies are concerned). I\'ve gone through quite a lot of social science texts in which I\'ve had to retain original concepts (and I see nothing wrong with that). Still, I have an ongoing battle with certain institutions which, in the name of purism, would call a chair an \"ass-catcher\" or, on the other extreme, simply twist spelling around to accommodate a new technological concept. I believe there\'s a time and place for everything and I admit I\'m quite conservative as regards creations and new coinages (re-spelling doesn\'t work with me). But sadly, I came across a scientific article which I believe is at the root of the problem: Linguists aren\'t statistically likely to be polyglots, much less translators, and the experience that they bring into coinage does not necessarily take into account either practical context or a globalized environment.

In this sense, I find there is something wrong with a purism that has not experienced anything else; it\'s almost like a linguistic fundamentalism, so to speak. It has nothing to do with inferiority or any complex to that effect; it\'s simply reactive, and - I believe - born of an ill-founded isolationism, if not a real feeling of isolation produced by restrictions on experience, travel, and working opportunities. The developed world is a fortress for many developmental languages, and the fact that many developed countries promote policies that preclude involvement of translators doesn\'t help.



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Fevziye Gündoğdu
Local time: 18:11
Turkish to English
+ ...
Jul 28, 2001

hi,



In Turkey, this argument on how to translate technical terms has been going on for some time. For languages coming from similar roots and cultural background, purism may not be necessary. When using terms as they are in TUrkish texts, we face many problems. First of all, if the translator is not an expert in the field, he may misuse the term. Another problem is the reader. As the term has no ties with the language he is using, he usually does not properly understand the real meaning of the world. This results in a funny, meaningless technical language in th end. Today, there are many scientific texts that nobody can understand what the author had tried to say.



Purification causes many problems too. Before the republic, there were two different languages in the Ottoman land, apart from the many minority languages. Ottoman language was used by the poets, officials and in the medresah(universities), it was a mixture of Persian, Arabic and Turkish. And the majority of the ottoman citizens spoke TUrkish. THese two groups didn\'t understand each other. With the republic, linguists have studied the language spoken in Anatolia and the ancient Turkish. They have adapted the scientific and literary language into something that every citizen can understand. Ýt has been quite successful.



That renovation has been done by collaboration of the specialists of various fields. Thats why it has been successful. NOw, only linguists work on it. If the word they \"create\" or \"adapt\" is close to the spoken language, it is easily accepted and used. Like \"bilgisayar\" instead of \"computer\" BUt, as they cannot grasp the exact meaning and the use of some technical words, they come up with funny ideas.



I think, translators have much to do about this. There are many translators who have specialised in one single field. Many of these have graduated from a relevant field. Like medicine in turkey. Medical institutes are very particular about the language they use. Today, unless they start using Latin, many people of medium education can understand what a doctor says. I think this is very important. When I say Konservasyon \"for the word \"conservation\", the person with whom I am trying to communicate about the restoration of his house cannot understand unless I explain him the term. But when I say \"koruma\" he understands and there is no need for further explanation.



I agree that uncontrolled purification results in funny results, but in languages like TUrkish, using terms as they are leads to a big gap between different scientific fields and between the scientists and the public. ANd there is such a gap now, which leads to many misunderstandings and alienation.



Just think what television means to someone who at least nows the meaning of vision, and what it means to someone who has no idea of the meaning of \"tele\" or \"vision\".



I think the subject is a bit carried away, sorry...



love



deniz


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Dave Simons
Local time: 17:11
French to English
grok (Martian) Aug 18, 2001

Who\'s read the science fiction classic by Robert Heinlein, \"Stranger in a Strange Land\"?

If you have, you probably know what I\'m going to say. Heinlein is very subtle and clever in this book in many respects, not the least of which is his invention of an untranslatable word right near the beginning, a word whose meaning we can gradually infer through context; and when one of his characters actually tries to explain the meaning of the word near the end of the book, we\'re flattered to find that our intuitive understanding of it was right.



So what\'s the word? The word is \"grok\", and it\'s Martian.



...and if I told you what it meant, I\'d be denying you one of the pleasures of reading a truly great book ;-p



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Nike Vrettos
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:11
Greek to English
Meraki Oct 5, 2001

In Greek we have the word Meraki. It is a great word but is hard to describe in English. It is a way of doing something (a mix of love and style and enjoyment). It is a feeling. So if you do something with meraki,(from making a salad to decorating) it means that you have given something of yourself when doing it (positive of course)!

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Zenny Sadlon
Local time: 10:11
English to Czech
+ ...
NIRVANA? LET'S SEE . . . Oct 11, 2001

There is the Czech word \"pohoda\". A state of being trouble-, anxiety-, and pain-free, achieved through a variety of means, not the least important of which are good Czech food (pork or duck, dumplings, and sauerkraut or sweet-sour cabbage), great beer, and then some. It\'s a placid, not excited state of being.



To translate it as nirvana would be giving it an inappropriate spiritual dimension. Let\'s look at the word: the root is \"hod\". \"Hodit\" is to throw. \"Hody\" is a village feast, a banquet. \"Pohodit\" is to carelessly throw away on the way. \"Pohodný\" is a carrion collector, picking up carcasses of perhaps \"throw-away\" animals that he \"throws away\". \"Pohodlný\" is \"comfortable\". \"Pohodlí\" is \"comfort\".



So what\'s \"POHODA\"?



\"Jsem v pohodì\", \"I\'m in \'pohoda\'\", i.e. \"No problem\". \"To je pohoda!\", \"What bliss!\"



Just chillin\' with my Bohemian/Czech hommies . . .



_________________



[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-10-12 05:47 ]

[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-10-12 11:08 ]


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Xiaoping Fu  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:11
Chinese to English
+ ...
To be or not to be? Oct 19, 2001

I would like to approach this topic from an opposit direction. Translating problems sometimes come from the lacking of certain words in the target language. For example, believe or not, there is not an exact equivalent for the English word \"to be\" in Chinese. We use several words to translate it in different contexts. For \'It is a dog\", we use the word ¡°ÊÇ¡±(shi4), for \'There is a cat in the room\', we use the word ¡°ÓС±(you3), for the philosophy concept \'being\', we use ¡°ÔÚ¡±(zai4). We had a problem in translating the famous sentence \'to be or not to be, that is the question.\' The widely accepted translation is ¡°Éú´æ»¹ÊÇËÀÍö£¬Õâ¾ÍÊÇÎÊÌâÖ®ËùÔÚ¡£¡±It means \'live or death, that is the question.\' Correct? Yes, but not exactly. Not to be doesn\'t necessarily mean to die, at least not physically.

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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:11
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Concept only in German? Oct 22, 2001

I would like to know from others whether this German/Austrian concept (don\'t know whether this applies to Switzerland or not) is used elsewhere: \"Geisterfahrer\", defined as a person driving the wrong way down the highway. My friends in Austria asked how to say Geisterfahrer in English, and I told them we didn\'t do that often enough to have a separate word for the concept (in the US). But if you\'ve spent time there or in Germany, you know that you hear announcements warning you of Geisterfahrer on the radio all the time!



Daina


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Zenny Sadlon
Local time: 10:11
English to Czech
+ ...
Geisterfahrer? Let's see . . . Oct 23, 2001

We, in the U.S., have \"ghostriders in the sky\", the spirits of cowboys driving their bovine in the hereafter.



But \"ghostdrivers\"? Can you tell me, do they appear on divided highways where they must have crossed the median or driven onto an exit ramp as if it were an entrance?



As for the American ghostriders, you can read the lyrics to the famous song at http://www.expage.com/page/ghostriders .



There is also an U.S. Navy Airwing that goes by that name. (Read more about them at http://www.topedge.com/alley/squadron/lant/vf142his.htm). The U.S. Army has Ghostriders as well:an Anti-Tank Platoon in Delta Company, 3/504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (http://www.geocities.com/at3ghostriders/)



People driving the wrong-way anywhere are greeted with expletive compounds of the pattern \"wrong-way [expletive action-noun]\"



Thanks for sharing that interesting concept.







Quote:


On 2001-10-22 22:43, Daina wrote:

I would like to know from others whether this German/Austrian concept (don\'t know whether this applies to Switzerland or not) is used elsewhere: \"Geisterfahrer\", defined as a person driving the wrong way down the highway. My friends in Austria asked how to say Geisterfahrer in English, and I told them we didn\'t do that often enough to have a separate word for the concept (in the US). But if you\'ve spent time there or in Germany, you know that you hear announcements warning you of Geisterfahrer on the radio all the time!



Daina


[addsig]

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Lavandula
Dutch to English
+ ...
Geisterfahrer and "Playing Chicken" Oct 24, 2001

Hi,

In response to the posts about Geisterfahrer - I live in Germany at the moment so I am familiar with the practice, but it\'s certainly not a common phenomenon in my home country (Australia). In translation I would probably try to relate this somehow to the practice of \"playing chicken\", which in my understanding has a slightly wider scope of reference and refers to a testing of the nerves via a kind of physical challenge to someone\'s safety - I think the original practice the term is based on consisted of driving a car very fast at an unprotected person. There is a loose assumption that the driver will swerve out of the way at the last minute to avoid the person. However, if the person decides not to rely on the driver\'s skill and jumps out of the way, s/he has failed the test and is considered a \"chicken\"! (I\'d rather be a live chicken rather than roadkill any day!).

Cheers,

Lavandula


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:11
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Another Geisterfahrer question Oct 25, 2001

Can the concept of a Geisterfahrer be an accidental phenomenon as well or is it always someone acting with intent?



By the way, or a classic example of playing chicken with cars, see the movie \"Rebel Without a Cause\" (they\'re not on the highway, though!)





Daina



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