August 9th, 2007


untranslatable words

i find the concept of untranslatable words really intriguing. obviously, being "untranslatable" is a fluid term, but the writer of this website (n.b. definitely worth a click!) put it most succinctly: "single words that require phrases, paragraphs, or pages to translate."

so, with that in mind, does anyone here know of other words that are untranslatable to english, that english does not have one set term for? what do they mean that the closest english equivalent doesn't quite express? new-/non-words are welcome, too!

edit: in short, i'm really looking for concepts in other languages that do happen to have one unit representing them, that might take several, less fixed units to express in english.

Alouette, gentille alouette!

I did study French for a few unsuccessful years, but I remember the song 'Alouette' from my childhood. The only thing that really changes during the different verses of the song is the body part, and I couldn't think of too many body parts in French, so I looked it up.

I expected a lot of versions, but the results were pretty consistant.


To those of you fluent in French: can any bird have both a 'nez' and a 'bec'? If they can't have a 'nez,' why do you think this word shows up? I keep seeing 'pattes,' but a lark doesn't have feathers on it's legs. Any idea why? And the 'yeux'??

Why isn't the word for breast on there anywhere? Armpits? Chin? Cheeks?

Because it is a children's song, perhaps words like 'nez' and 'yeux' are there for an adult to point to the corresponding part on a child while they sing. If this is the case, what human body parts could be included in the song with the intention of teaching them to a child?


Community appeal

There's is something that has bothered me for a long, long time about this Community. Unfortunately, it's inherent to LiveJournal and not something that can be fixed by a change in settings. It's a problem that only individual members can remedy. And it's much more serious than a few annoying tattoo requests.

The problem is that we create out meeting spaces as we go along. We're like a discussion group that has no community centre. Instead, we're forced to take turns meeting in people's homes. That is, a discussion space only comes into being when one of the Community members posts here, which creates a space where others can add comments.

The gaping flaw in this is that the OP can, at any time, decide to delete the post--and with it all of the comments. In three years or so, I've yet to see any OP ask for input before doing this; they simply make a command decision to pull the plug. What if the discussion is still going? Too bad: Out of my living room! What if someone comes late and wants to see what people have been talking about? Too bad, it's gone now!

I'm not saying that every comment I post here is so precious that it should never be deleted. But I do wish posters would keep in mind that this Community is not for their benefit alone. Okay, so you posted asking for help with an art project, and instead everyone turned it into a thread about bad anime translations. So what? What does it hurt to leave the tangent there?

In your Journal, you are absolute monarch; you can do whatever you want--ban people, delete off-topic responses, change the format--hey, go nuts. But in this Community, you are one member among thousands. Please have some respect for your fellow members and keep in mind that what's best for you at a particular moment may not be best for anyone else or the group dynamic over the longer term.

Thank you for your kind attention. [Y'all are free to talk openly--even about things which have nothing to do with the subject of this post. This entry will never be deleted by me.]

Text-speak in your language.

I'm just curious, really. I'm not, by any means, a proponent of text-speak for SMS/text messages. In fact, it really gives me the irrits. But I do like seeing how people can wrangle words down to the bare bones needed for 'communication'. And how said 'communication' has its own variants in every language.

Here's a particularly illegible example in English from my younger cousin, who should know better by now:

Tanx coz. have u had ur tea yet. Ok. i have 2 go soz. can u txt back 2 say bye plz. ill c u l8er
(Thanks cousin. Have you had your tea yet? Ok. I have to go, sorry. Can you text back to say 'bye', please? I'll see you later.)

And, from recent SMS communication with my Indonesian host family, I present you with Indonesian text-speak:

Kt senang sekali kl KW bs dtg. Namañ Firdaus.
(Kita senang sekali kalau KW bisa datang. Namanya Firdaus)
I especially like the way the accented 'n' is used here (it's not a letter in the Indonesian alphabet) to indicate the '-nya' suffix.

skrg dmn? lg ngapain? Smua urusan dah beres kan. Sori td hanya drop KW krn msh hrs pergi k 2 tempat lg. Thx k KW dah menemani & b'diskusi dgn sy.
(Sekarang dimana? Lagi ngapain? Semua urusan sudah beres, bukan? Maaf tadi hanya drop KW, karena masih harus pergi ke 2 tempat lagi. Thanks ke KW, sudah menemani dan berdiskusi dengan saya.)

I know that Italian has a variety of text-speak as well - but I don't have any SMS on my phone to demonstrate. There was a tendency to use 'k' for the hard 'ch' sound, and X for 'per', leading to words such as Xke for 'perche'. 6 was used for 'sei'... and I can't think of anything else at the moment.

Does anyone else have examples?

EDIT: Because I just remembered that I also wanted to point out that 10 years ago, before mobile phones and internet made it to Indonesia, I had picked up from my friends, a shorthand version of Indonesian for writing - where yang becomes yg, and yang terhomat is yth. dsb is disebut and plurals are simply written as buku2 instead of buku-buku. In some ways, I think this prepared the population for the HP (hand phone = mobile phone) revolution...
peenie gatorade

IPA ink

just curious - has anyone ever seen phonetic representations of words as tattoos?

with all the "how do i say _____ in language X because i am getting it as a tattoo" posts recently, i've been browsing random tattoo galleries on and it occurred to me that i have never seen anyone with IPA symbols tattooed on their bodies.

then the following conversation took place:

friend: you could get the phonetic rep of some meaningful word
friend: which would only be legible to linguists
friend: and everyone else would go, "What language is that in?"
friend: and you would say, "English, of course"
me: and it's gotta have a glottal stop
me: and maybe some diacritics
friend: oh, it would have to be a very VERY detailed transcription
friend: like everything that could be modified

so, with those specifications/requirements, what would be some good words for this sort of tattoo? not that i'm getting one, but i just wanted to see what kind of bizarre words/phonetic representations people can come up with.
baby monkey

(no subject)

For a bridal shower I've been asked to come up with a traditional Russian toast to the bride. On the one hand, maybe a translation of something like this would be good:

"To your health, wealth, prosperity and love"

Or maybe some of you Russian speakers out there know of something along those lines that would work even better. Cyrillic, translation and pronunciation guide would be so helpful that I can't even tell you.

Thanks very much in advance!
  • Current Mood
    curious curious

slang definition request

Somebody in this community quoted someone else as saying, ain't that the shit? I was so interested I googled it but didn't come across anything satisfactory. So, could someone please tell me what it means and, if possible, just how often it can be heard and in what contexts? Thanks in advance...

(no subject)

Hello, all.

I'm looking into learning Spanish next summer. I want to go on an intensive course in Spain, which will bring me up to reasonable standard (around GCSE or equivalent) in around a month or less. I realise this a tall order, since I have never studied Spanish before in my life. However, I do have a sound basis in French and Latin, so I'm not a complete novice when it comes to Romance languages. I plan to go into a career using languages somehow, so I'm trying to add as many strings to my bow as possible. I realise that basic Spanish won't be much use, but I do plan to live in a Spanish speaking country in the future to improve my fluency.

Basically, the issue I have is finding a reputable agency to go through. I've looked into it a bit on google, but the sites I'm finding don't look very professional. Is there a particular agency which could help me find a programme? Or does anyone have any personal experience of finding a placement like this?


Sexy Hebrew

So I started trying to learn Hebrew. To my astonishment and delight, it turned out to be grammatically very regular and simple. Huzzah!

Then the sex hit me. Everything (except, as far as I can tell, adverbs) declines by sex, and sometimes the words are completely different (i.e. "give me" is "nili" when talking to a woman and "tenli" when talking to a man). The relentless sexing almost overwhelmed me. O_O
I beg anyone who speaks Hebrew to tell me: do I have any other nasty surprises lying in wait to ambush me?

And do all languages find a way to make themselves difficult? Is that why Esperanto was invented? Because all of the hundreds of extant tongues have some unnecessary complication about them?
  • Current Mood
    horny horny

Studying Japanese independently

Hi-hello. I've been studying Japanese quite intensively for a year now, attended conversation classes and all, but now it seems I may have to teach myself for an unknown period of time. So I'd be interested in your input on all the kanji & grammar books out there. Which ones would you recommend for independent learning? How hard would you say it is to learn Japanese without actively attending classes? How proficient can I realistically expect myself to be after two years of studying? Kiitos&thank you.

these strang german ways

I apologize for this being more culture than language related, but I recently bought a book called These Strange German Ways which was basically a casual, witty description of the German's culture, language, customs, quirks etc.. It was really informative and entertaining; does anyone know of similar books for other countries or people-groups? Or maybe just direct me to a community where this might be more pertinent? Thanks!