Years ago, I was watching a french movie when the protagonist, a little boy names his girl friend “Ukume”. He explains her that in his tribal language it means “Sound of the rain drops falling on leaves”. I wondered how evolved this tribal language could be and If you could express better in that language than in most other “evolved” languages. Later I heard “L’esprit de l’escalier”, it is a French term used in English that describes the predicament of thinking of the perfect retort too late. Now how many of us can say it hasn’t happened to us? At least with me that happens a lot. I can think of all the amazing retorts in the World but only after the situation has passed
Similarly I have never been able figure out an English equivalent for Sanskrit Shraddha. Mostly associated with faith but it is so much more than just faith or dedication or love or reverence. It is all of these and more.
Most native American characters also seem to have names based on their behaviour like ‘Stands with a fist’. (Btw this is from my half-baked knowledge that comes from watching movies like Dancing with the Wolves). If I was a native American, I guess I’d be called ‘Sits in front of the TV/Computer the whole day’
Here is a list of other such untranslatable words I found online.
- pana po’o – Hawaiian means to scratch your head in order to help you to remember something you’ve forgotten.
- Gökotta – Swedish means to wake up early in the morning with the purpose of going outside to hear the first birds sing.
- Pochemuchka – Russian – a person who asks too much questions. Don’t we all know atleast one such person. This reminds me of Paresh Rawal in movie Judaai.
- Chai-Pani – Hindi – referred to the bribe i.e. small amount of money given to the bureaucratic worker to get things done. Oh how I hate that term! (chai aurpani ka naam badnaam kar ke rakha hai)
- Iktsuarpok – Inuit- that feeling of anticipation when you’re waiting for someone to show up at your house and you keep going outside to see if they’re there yet?
- Schadenfreude – German – The joy obtained from watching others misery esp. someone who is more successful or powerful. All the Indian soap vamps know this a little too well. Doesn’t mean other don’t do just that vamps are more open about it.
- Ilunga – Tshiluba(an African language) – meaning ”a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time”. 3 is a little 2 much eh? Sounds simple enough but a 1,000 language experts identified it as the hardest word to translate.
- Shlimazl – Yiddish for “a chronically unlucky person”. We may not have anything in English but there is a Hindi word for that “Panauti”. Nobody wants to be one
- Kyoikumama – Japanese for a Mom who pushes her children too much for academic achievement. This kids must feel like shlimazl kids while others Schadenfreude at their expense.
Those are the ones I have come across while reading something or during my discussions with the like-minded folks. Do add to the list.
Btw – Is there is word for feeling that you are so angry that you want to punch them in the face right then? I have had an experience like that recently so just trying to find a word to describe that.
Also, currently I am reading this book on how Amul brand became the toast of the nation through their print ads. Must say they define a new language and have a set of their own untranslatable lingo.