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Off topic: The most infuriating word to translate from your source language(s)
Thread poster: Deborah do Carmo

Deborah do Carmo  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:25
Dutch to English
+ ...
Jul 25, 2007


I'm sure each of us have certain words that crop up time and again while we're translating that really make us want to tear our hair out.

You know, those words that "say it all so well" and seem to cover every conceivable situation in the source language but can't be rendered quite as neatly in the target language.

Thought it might be a nice distraction to list one for each of our source languages and perhaps briefly explain what makes them so infuriating.

Who knows, colleagues working in the same/related language pair(s) might have already found brilliant solutions and care to share them.

I've got a few in Dutch and Portuguese but to keep the thread going, it's perhaps best to choose one for each source language - so I'm first going to consider for a while which one to choose for each language.

Just so it's clear - not looking for the so-called "untranslatables" but rather examples that we are confronted with on a daily basis - something a colleague will look at and say "I know what s/he means - I struggle with that one every time!"

Update: Still narrowing down the list here. Tina has already mentioned a couple of candidates on the Dutch listicon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2007-07-26 07:36]


Hilde Granlund  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:25
English to Norwegian
+ ...
I know it.... Jul 25, 2007

The most infuriating English term is "device"
Says it exactly in English, not so in Norwegian...
Just look it up in the dictionary
Maybe medical devices are especially infuriatingicon_biggrin.gif


Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:25
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Mamma mia Jul 26, 2007

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:


I'm sure each of us have certain words that crop up time and again while we're translating that really make us want to tear our hair out.


[Edited at 2007-07-25 23:32]



it's a term used in the electricity field.

It's INDISPOSICIÓN, MALESTAR in Spanish if the source is English but "malay, from Malasia" if it's French . That makes me laugh when translating a tourism brochure.

I need a Cuban cigar to relax.


Evija Rimšāne  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:25
English to Latvian
the first that came into my mind... Jul 26, 2007

...was "performance". Oh, it is so colourful and brilliant expression in English (e.g. "the new car's performance is outstanding...", "monitor's visual performance" etc.), but each of the equivalents in Latvian sounds so terribly clumsy I become absolutely desperate every time I have to translate it... So I have to figure out how to say it a bit differently without translating the "performance" directly.

Oh, and there's another one: the "experience" in particular context, for example, "unparallel visual and audio experience", "HD projector for the best multimedia experience" etc. If I translated the "experience" directly, it would sound reeaallly ridiculous:)


Tina Vonhof
Local time: 17:25
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
At least two Dutch buzz words Jul 26, 2007

I can think of at least two Dutch buzz words that are 'in' nowadays:

1) kader - 'in het kader van', and
2) invulling - 'invulling geven aan'

Both of these give me a headache every time I encounter them, as it can be very hard to find an equivalent in English. To make matters worse, it depends on the context.


Hilde Granlund  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:25
English to Norwegian
+ ...
performance Jul 26, 2007

is another headache-inducer, that's right.


Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:25
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
constipado Jul 26, 2007

In Spanish: suffering from a cold.
In English & French (constipated, constipé) unable to defecate


avsie (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:25
English to French
+ ...
Issue Jul 26, 2007

I never know how to translate it in French, as it depends so much on context! It's a multi-meaning word that English writers seems to love so much! (like 'experience' and 'performance' as wellicon_wink.gif)


Kirill Semenov  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:25
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Challenging Jul 26, 2007

It's always a real challenge to translate this English word into Russian.icon_wink.gif


Elena Sánchez-Pinto Hodgson  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:25
Member (2008)
English to Spanish
powered by Jul 26, 2007

I never seem to find a satisfying translation into Spanish for this expression.


Local time: 00:25
Issue, concern... Jul 26, 2007

I agree with Marie-Claude on the "issue" issue. I would add "concern" as well, but there are many more.

In general, what I find difficult when I translate EN, GE > ES is the fact that I sometimes need nearly an entire sentence to translate a single English or German word. My target texts grow enormously...



Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:25
Italian to English
We call these "Miriams"... Jul 26, 2007

... or "Moderately Irritating Recurring Idioms and Mannerisms" on the IT-EN Yahoo group for Italian-English translators.

You can find a list in the Files section of the IT-EN site:

or on the web site of the lady who started the ball rolling, Miriam Hurley:



[Edited at 2007-07-26 08:01]


PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:25
English to Polish
+ ...
English corpo-business speak Jul 26, 2007

Pick a word, any word.

Empower, capacity building, networking, etc.
also some "normal" words and terms - affordability, best value for money, cost-effective...

Pawel Skalinski


Agnieszka Zmuda  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:25
Member (2005)
English to Polish
"Business(es)" Jul 26, 2007

Sometimes a really confusing word, especially when over-used in corporate language.

Apart from that, "performance" and "to network/networking" - as some of you have already mentioned - are a pain in the neck.


Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:25
Flemish to English
+ ...
Perivodsjik Jul 26, 2007

How would Russian translator translate the word "translator" : perivodsjik. And "interpreter"? : ...

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