Snowy (wosny) wrote in linguaphiles,

50 words for snow

I have some jars of home made strawberry "jam-elly" which has jam with fruit in the top half of the jar and just clear jelly in the bottom half. It was due to a bit of a failure in my jam making technique, but in general the two things are cooked in different ways, jam has the sugar added to the fresh fruit and jelly has the sugar added to the juice of strained cooked fruit. As I understand it in the US jam is called jelly, so do they have a separate word for the clear fruit juice type preserve?

The title refers to the cliché of there being many more words for snow in the Eskimo languages...which isn't accurate however I think everyone who speaks more than one language knows that there are words that exist in one language that don't exist in another. My own experience is that French has not got a word for moth, instead saying papillon de nuit. This is irritating because butterflies and moths are distinct species, with different antennae, wing scales and body shape. While most moths are nocturnal some moths are day-flying.
On the other hand English has no word for exercise book, to translate cahier. It does seem sensible to define clearly books for writing in, and those for reading from, i.e. livre.

I would like to hear what words what other people feel should exist from other languages in their own, and vice versa.

Thank you. :)
Tags: american english, english, french, inuit languages
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  • 76 comments

laudre

February 6 2014, 12:40:13 UTC 8 months ago

French "cahier" ~= English "workbook" (at least, American English).

In American English, both "jelly" and "jam" can be used as the catchall term for fruit preserves (we also understand, but less commonly use, "preserves" in the same role). Many (most?) people are aware of there being a distinction between jellies and jams (without being entirely clear on what the distinction actually is), but given that most of us Americans get our jellies and jams at the supermarket, from the same shelves and basically sold and used as interchangeable products, it's not something we spend much time thinking about. People who do make their own preserves, however, are not only aware that there's a distinction, but they know what the distinction is and will refer to the type of preserve appropriately, in my experience (just like any interest that has its own jargon, which is most of them).

As for other words ... I've never found a word in any language I've studied that corresponds to the English word home. That's not to say that the associated concepts can't be expressed, but doing so frequently changes based on context (e.g. French chez moi vs. mon pays).

wosny

February 6 2014, 13:08:34 UTC 8 months ago

I feel that workbook is just adding an adjective to "book"...
Thanks for the jelly/jam clarification.

Heim in German seems to carry the home feeling? It was apparantly from unheimlich that the US gained the word homely as meaning plain.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny

biascut

8 months ago

wosny

8 months ago

muckefuck

8 months ago

muckefuck

8 months ago

wosny

8 months ago

arrowthroughme

8 months ago

biascut

8 months ago

spamsink

8 months ago

biascut

8 months ago

spamsink

8 months ago

arrowthroughme

8 months ago

arrowthroughme

8 months ago

mamculuna

8 months ago

arrowthroughme

8 months ago

sidheag

February 6 2014, 12:45:45 UTC 8 months ago

"Moth" is not a species any more than "butterfly" is, and the Wikipedia article anyway suggests that English's use of the word "moth" for certain Lepidoptera is more than a bit arbitrary. Given that French has two words, mite and phalène, for different certain lepidoptera, I don't think it's reasonable to see this as a deficit in French.

wosny

February 6 2014, 13:12:42 UTC 8 months ago

Hmm, phalène is not a word I know, but it seems to describe a particular kind of moth. Mites are like pests, such as clothes moths or the ones that eat dried goods.
http://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/phal%C3%A8ne

aksioma_tg

February 6 2014, 13:11:26 UTC 8 months ago Edited:  February 6 2014, 13:11:41 UTC

In Russian we have a word for 24 hours (like day AND night), for example. It doesn't exist in English.
But I really wish a preposition like "by" existed in Russian. It is so easy to say "a book by..", "music by...", whatever. It always gives me a hard time to translate these frases.

wosny

February 6 2014, 13:39:15 UTC 8 months ago

I am not sure when prepositions were developed, I think originally in languages such as Latin or Greek it was implied by the end of the noun... I am just remembering very vaguely Latin declensions, "by, with or from a table" However I am excedingly grateful for the simpler grammar that separate prepositions bring!

aksioma_tg

8 months ago

muckefuck

8 months ago

mamculuna

8 months ago

muckefuck

8 months ago

mamculuna

8 months ago

muckefuck

8 months ago

ubykhlives

8 months ago

mamculuna

February 6 2014, 13:11:42 UTC 8 months ago

In my southern version of American English, the distinction between "jam" and "jelly" is that jelly is usually clear and jelled, but "jam" is softer and contains fruit, just as you describe. When I make "jam," I just use sugar and fruit, but when I make "jelly," I strain out the fruit and use just the juice but usually include some pectin (maybe from apples). I'm not sure that everyone uses the words that way, but seems to be what the labels in the stores use. I never use the two words interchangeably, but don't doubt that others do.

I've always thought of "notebook" as being roughly equivalent to "cahier." Maybe I'm wrong!

I'd love an English word for Schadenfreude!

wosny

February 6 2014, 13:42:24 UTC 8 months ago

I see, jam exists in AE, I hadn't realised. :)

I think for me, one could say book or notebook, whereas a cahier and a livre are not interchangeable.

Perhaps that wouldn't be true in the US.

teaoli

8 months ago

iddewes

8 months ago

mamculuna

8 months ago

muckefuck

8 months ago

mamculuna

8 months ago

muckefuck

8 months ago

mamculuna

8 months ago

muckefuck

8 months ago

lareinemisere

8 months ago

mamculuna

8 months ago

sorrowis_stupid

8 months ago

frenchroast

8 months ago

mamculuna

8 months ago

shizuku_san

8 months ago

muckefuck

8 months ago

ubykhlives

8 months ago

muckefuck

8 months ago

mack_the_spoon

February 6 2014, 15:10:48 UTC 8 months ago

From my experience (which is, granted, nowhere near native speaker level), ban in both Lao and Thai is a pretty close correspondence to "home" in English. I can say "yu ban" to mean both "at home, my house that I'm renting as I live here" and also to mean "at home, in America". Of course, ban also has a different meaning that English doesn't have: "village" or "neighborhood".

BTW, I've lived in the Pacific Northwest of the US most of my life and always had a difference between jam and jelly - jam being preserves with pieces of fruit, and jelly being clear without the pieces of fruit. I still call the sandwich a "peanut butter and jelly" sandwich, no matter what kind of fruit spread it has, though.

muckefuck

February 6 2014, 15:33:45 UTC 8 months ago

As for words I feel a lack for, I suppose the easiest thing to do is to look at what loanwords I use when speaking English which aren't in general use. A sampling:

beziehungsweise (Can variously be translated as "as the case may be", "more precisely known as", and other expressions which are even more awkward.)

chambrer "come up to room temperature"

누룽지 "crunchy golden rice from the bottom of the pot" (Actually, what word I use varies by cuisine; I'll use ته دیگ when talking about Persian food, socorrat in discussions of paella, and so forth.)

Sitzfleisch "ability to sit still for extended periods of time"

I don't say telefonino, but my spouse does. Sure, we have words for "cell/mobile" in English, but no diminutives that don't sound childish. And I don't use Bekannte or conegut in English, but I feel the lack of a less clumsy word than "acquaintance" for someone with whom I'm friendly but who isn't a "friend". (I sometimes use "pal" but that's not a good equivalent either.)

arrowthroughme

February 6 2014, 17:14:04 UTC 8 months ago

Some of my favourite English words which I can never quite properly translate, are rather, sophisticated, and anyway.

Also, wouldn't you rather think that Sitzfleisch is a metaphor?

muckefuck

8 months ago

imps85

8 months ago

imps85

8 months ago

muckefuck

8 months ago

moa1918

8 months ago

muckefuck

February 6 2014, 15:36:42 UTC 8 months ago Edited:  February 6 2014, 15:37:10 UTC

Oh, and speaking of words for snow, living in Chicago I feel the lack of a more differentiated vocabulary. As a result, I've begun to import climatological terms like "névé" into ordinary conversation, and even had a crack at inventing some new terms of my own.

ticktockman

February 6 2014, 16:47:09 UTC 8 months ago

"Jelly" or "Jellies" is the generic cover-all name you'll see on the supermarket aisle directories in the US. The jars with no bits of visible fruit in them are labeled as "jelly" and the jars with tangible fruit pieces are called "preserves". I don't see "jam" used very often, but I actually look for it when buying concord grape jelly (look, I've just used jelly generically) because the jam version is easier to spread when I'm making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

taversham

February 6 2014, 17:15:36 UTC 8 months ago

I (BrE) am not sure about technical distinctions, but would have called both the top and bottom half of your jar of strawberry preserve jam. If pushed to distinguish, they would be jam with bits and jam without bits. I would only use jelly to refer to what the Americans call jello - the desert usually lacking any real fruit at all. I'd also say that a book and an exercise book/notbeook are very distinct things, but at least at my school we also called exercise books jotters.

As for words I wish other languages had... I miss the versatility of Dutch lekker when speaking English - yummy sounds very childish, and you can't really use tasty about people in English without sounding a bit pervy. I also miss German Alibi-Freund(in), English does have beard but with a narrower, less transparent meaning and IME not as well-known/understood. In standard English, I miss bui/boi which, while technically is just boy, has a much broader use in Devon, encompassing meanings such as friend, person, child, guy, mate, coworker, can be used as a greeting, an exclamation of surprise/alarm/pleasure/displeasure... it's pretty all purpose.

In German, I miss least favourite as a succinct phrase, and subtle which does exist in German as subtil but just isn't used nearly as often as in English (or Dutch subtiel), so when I do use it it feels unidiomatic...so I suppose it's the concept rather than the word I miss in the latter case.

thekumquat

February 6 2014, 18:54:33 UTC 8 months ago

Though British English and cuisine have redcurrant jelly and mint jelly, which aren't gelatin desserts (the phrase American cookbook and stores have to use as Jello is a brand name) but clear fruit/leaf preserves.

rirakkumiru

February 6 2014, 20:35:17 UTC 8 months ago

Maybe folks who have never been around a jam and jelly maker don't know the difference but I'm from USA and I use it the way you describe. Of course I've always helped my grandmother make them so we know the differences. Maybe southern folks make more homemade jam/jelly...

PS Japanese don't distinguish between Alligator and Crocodile. They are both "wani (鰐).

shizuku_san

February 7 2014, 05:05:35 UTC 8 months ago

Nor rat/mouse, both are nezumi.

5x6

February 6 2014, 23:25:23 UTC 8 months ago

My favorite is German "doch", which does not have an exact translation in any of the languages I am sufficiently familiar with (English, French, Russian).

electricdruid

February 7 2014, 00:36:46 UTC 8 months ago

I have been thinking a lot about jam and jelly lately. I've realized that neither word feels comfortable in my mouth. I don't eat a lot of the stuff, so that could be why I never settled on a word for it, but I used to as a kid and still sometimes do when I visit my mother. I think jelly always refers to grape for me. Anything else is probably jam.

I'm American.

And I had no idea until I read the first comment that there is a difference between the two. What in the world is the difference? o_o

rirakkumiru

February 7 2014, 05:09:04 UTC 8 months ago

When you make jam, you mash up the fruit and all of the fruit goes into the other ingredients. If you make jelly, you do the same except you strain the fruit so that only the juice remains. It makes it clear and no pulp.

reconditarmonia

February 7 2014, 03:11:05 UTC 8 months ago

(English speaker with Italian, French, a year of German) I find it really limiting sometimes to not be able to say "informations" in English the way I can in other languages. "Pieces of information" is clumsy, "facts" isn't always what I want to express, and the singular doesn't always work.

lareinemisere

February 7 2014, 07:42:06 UTC 8 months ago

I was thinking last night that I didn't really know any words which I felt were lacking a good English equivalent...and this morning I remembered the utter scorn of the French kids I worked with back in my long-ago Foreign Language Assistant days when I was unable to provide an adequate translation of the adjective débrouillard.

The verb débrouiller translates as ' to untangle; to sort out', and the related reflexive verb se débrouiller translates as 'to manage (to do something); to have a working knowledge of; to cope'.

One online dictionary I've found gives 'resourceful; able to cope; self-reliant' as translations for the adjective. Another gives 'smart' (which it describes as informal language). For me, none of those words quite get across the full connotations of the original, which aren't unambiguously positive...as. perhaps, best demonstrated by the fact that, as a noun, débrouillard can be translated as either 'resourceful person' or 'hustler'.



wosny

February 7 2014, 08:04:35 UTC 8 months ago

I really agree with you on that one, several times I have tried to explain to someone English that my children are debrouillard but there doesn't seem to be a single word that sums up that, as you say *ambiguous* quality. :D

imps85

8 months ago

qn128

February 7 2014, 12:14:32 UTC 8 months ago

In Polish there is a word "doba" and it means "day and night". No equivalent in English.

"rudy" - red(head), ginger; but both those words mean also something else. There isn't any separate word for "rudy" in English.

"kombinować" - wangle, manoeuvre, live by one's wits, be up to sth, try to figure out, find solutions using your own cleverness (sometimes implies not entirely legal solution). It means all those thing together and even more ;)

In English there are fingers and toes, in Polish those are hand fingers and leg fingers.

muckefuck

February 7 2014, 13:53:32 UTC 8 months ago

What else does "redhead" mean besides "a person with red hair"?

qn128

8 months ago

muckefuck

8 months ago

qn128

8 months ago

imps85

8 months ago