Found in Translation

pana po'o

pana po’o

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.


L for Leave letters

“English is Phunny language” said Amitabh Bachchan in an epic Bollywood movie and I couldn’t agree more. I don’t know of any other language where you could create so much confusion by just interchanging the order of words or misplacing a comma. Here are a few funny leave letters written by people whose impeccable English skills have made people’s day by giving them a good laugh.

1.Since I have to go to my village to sell my land along with my wife, please sanction me one-week leave. – I am sure the wifey doesn’t know of his plans 😛

2. From an employee who was performing the “mundan” ceremony of his 10-year-old son: “as I want to shave my son’s head, please leave me for two days..”
( For those who don’t know about mundan “In Hindu tradition, the hair from birth is associated with undesirable traits from past lives. Thus at the time of the mundan, the child is freshly shaven to signify freedom from the past and moving into the future. It is also said that the shaving of the hair stimulates proper growth of the brain and nerves”

3. Leave-letter from an employee who was getting his daughter married
“as I am marrying my daughter, please grant a week’s leave..” 😯

4. “As my mother-in-law has expired and I am only one responsible for it, please grant me 10 days leave.” – oh God! MILs please beware of such son-in-laws

5.Another employee applied for half day leave as follows:
“Since I’ve to go to the cremation ground at 10 o-clock and I may not return, please grant me half day casual leave”. – If you ever come back, if you ever come back,….

6. “I am suffering from fever, please declare one day holiday.” – Must be a very important person 😛

7. A leave letter to the headmaster:
“As I am studying in this school I am suffering from headache. I request you to leave me today” – Honesty is the best policy 😀

8. “As my headache is paining, please grant me leave for the day.” – No comments 😀

9. Covering note: “I am enclosed herewith…” – home delivery available.

10. “Dear Sir: with reference to the above, please refer to my below…” – As above, so below

11. “My wife is suffering from sickness and as I am her only husband at home I may be granted leave”. – Must have been so difficult only one husband managing everything

12. Letter writing: –
“I am in well here and hope you are also in the same well.” – So much for wellness

13. “This has reference to your advertisement calling for a ‘ Typist and an Accountant – Male or Female’…As I am both(!! )for the past several years and I can handle both with good experience, I am applying for the post. – I’d have hired him/her for the candidness 😀

14. A student’s leave letter:
“As I am suffering from my uncle’s marriage I cannot attend the class….” – your suffering has just begun 😛

On a related note, people are very creative when making lame excuses for taking leaves. But one person didn’t bother to think too much. Just clubbed the two most effective reasons
– Half the family dying, other half pregnant. – Brilliant, I say!

What is the lamest excuse you have given or heard someone give for taking a leave?

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