Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lost in translation

This list of untranslatable words that swiss miss posted is great. It's so interesting to think about how language and culture informs our view of the world. For a lot of these words, verbose Americans would string together a few sentences to express what other languages have specific words to describe.

I love that mamihlapinatapei is a word for a look. It's “the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start.”

Do you think the people in these cultures experience what these words are describe more often than the rest of us, in order to need a word to describe it? I wonder if there are any English words that would be difficult to translate into another language.

image via weheartit.


  1. It's funny, in Japanese it usually takes more words to describe an English word or translate a sentence. For example, the translation for "Nice to Meet you" is literally "Please take good care of me." Okay, that is only two extra words, but if my Japanese was less rusty I could think of more!

  2. "Please take good care of me"?! Wow, that's honest. Slash weird to say to everyone :)


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