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Untranslatable Universals (I)

Have you ever had a feeling that you just couldn’t put to words? It’s hard to describe something when you can’t even name it, isn’t it? Well, chances are that somewhere, some language has the exact word you need. In the series Untranslatable Universals we delve into words from many a different language that don’t exist in others, yet convey universal human emotions. Let’s begin!

 

Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, linguistics, untranslatable words for universal emotions, Tagalog

kilig (n.) Tagalog – Rush of exhilaration caused by a romantic happenstance, such as making eye contact or talking to one’s crush.

 

Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, linguistics, untranslatable words for universal emotions, German

Schwellenangst (n.) German – Fear of embarking something new or crossing a threshold.

 

Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, linguistics, untranslatable words for universal emotions, Greek

ελευθερομανία [eleutheromania] (n.) Greek – Intense desire for or obsession with freedom.

 

Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, linguistics, untranslatable words for universal emotions, Japanese

物の哀れ [mono no aware] (n.) Japanese – Bittersweet feeling for appreciation towards beautiful things pared with a deep wistfulness for their ephemeral nature. ‘Mono no aware’ literally means ‘pathos of things’, a sensitivity and sorrow towards the ephemeral.

 

Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, linguistics, untranslatable words for universal emotions, Italian

abbiocco (n.) Italian – Drowsy sensation following a large or hearty meal that often leads to falling asleep.

 

That’s it for now. Do you know more untranslatable universals? Let me know in the comments!

Spanish Animal Idioms

Let’s delve into the fascinating realm of idiomatic expressions once again with a collection of Spanish animal idioms. ¡Vamos allá!

Expat Gone Foreign, Language comics, idioms, phraseology, expresiones idiomáticas, fraseología, linguistics

If someone behaves in a peculiar or crazy manner, it’s safe to say that he or she “está como una cabra”. This idiom literally means “to be like a goat” and originated among farmers. If you have ever observed goats derping around, it’s easy to see how aloof they are.

Expat Gone Foreign, Language comics, idioms, phraseology, expresiones idiomáticas, fraseología, linguistics

The expression “estar como pez en el agua” literally means “to be like fish in the water” and is used to indicate that people are in their element. Think about it: fish feel best in their natural watery habitats.

Expat Gone Foreign, Language comics, idioms, phraseology, expresiones idiomáticas, fraseología, linguistics

“Estar como un pulpo en un garaje”, literally “to be like an octopus in a garage”, means being lost or feeling out of place. It’s the counterpart of “estar como pez en el agua”. Think about it, an octopus in a garage: must be pretty confusing to be surrounded by all kinds of weirdly shaped tools and discarded junk.

Expat Gone Foreign, Language comics, idioms, phraseology, expresiones idiomáticas, fraseología, linguistics

The idiom “tener pájaros en la cabeza”, literally “to have birds in your head”, doesn’t mean that these flying creatures built a nest inside your skull. It refers to someone who is a bit naive and has rather unrealistic ideas, expectations or goals. Although this expression has mildly negative connotations, daydreamers are happy to embrace their birds in the head, and coined the saying “Prefiero tener pájaros en la cabeza que vivir en las jaulas de vuestra mente” 1.

Expat Gone Foreign, Language comics, idioms, phraseology, expresiones idiomáticas, fraseología, linguistics

“Ser un pez gordo”, literally “to be one fat fish”, means being the boss or the person in charge who makes the decisions and holds the power. Other interlinguistic equivalents of “the fat fish” are “das hohe Tier” (the big animal) in German or “Важная птица” (the important bird) in Russian. You don’t want to mess around with the idiomatic fauna!

Expat Gone Foreign, Language comics, idioms, phraseology, expresiones idiomáticas, fraseología, linguistics

The idiom “trabajar como un burro”, literally “to work like a donkey”, means to work extremely hard. The hardworking relative in English would be the horse or the dog.

Eso es todo, amigos. If you enjoyed this post, check out these funny Spanish food idioms.

Schwyzdüütsch a.k.a. Swiss German

If you are into languages, you are probably familiar with those conversations with your multilingual friends: you take arbitrary elements from the languages you both speak, and randomly squeeze them together into sentences. That is any regular Monday for the Swiss. Schwyzdüütsch, a.k.a. Swiss German is a colorful amalgamation of German, French and Italian.

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Fun Finnish Words

Languages abound in peculiar compound words, and one particular language has a handful of them. Today we are taking a look at some fun Finnish words. Aloitetaan!

Expat Gone Foreign, Language comics, Learning Finnish, Suomi, Funny words, compounds

Lohikäärme (lit. salmon snake) is a dragon.
Fun fauna at its finest.

 

Expat Gone Foreign, Language comics, Learning Finnish, Suomi, Funny words, compounds

Jääkaappi (lit. ice closet) is a fridge.
It’s only logical.

 

Expat Gone Foreign, Language comics, Learning Finnish, Suomi, Funny words, compounds

Pesusieni (lit. wash fungus) is a sponge.
Showers just became much more fun!

 

Expat Gone Foreign, Language comics, Learning Finnish, Suomi, Funny words, compounds

Kattokruunu (lit. ceiling crown) is a chandelier.
Because homes also want to be pretty.

 

Expat Gone Foreign, Language comics, Learning Finnish, Suomi, Funny words, compounds

I saved my favorite for last. Tietokone (lit. knowledge machine) is a computer.
Bleepity bloopity bloop!

 

That’s it for today. If you enjoyed this article, check out Untranslatable Finnish Words and Poronkusema and the Finnish Linguistic Landscape. Näkemiin!

Mischievous Fauna

Somewhere in a Spanish-speaking rainforest, the mischievous fauna spends the day messing around with personal pronouns.

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Fun fact: the name of this bird comes from the Tupi word “tukana”, an extinct Tupian language that was spoken by the native Tupi people of Brazil. It made its way into many languages through the Portuguese “tucano”.

Would you like to find out more about the Spanish pronouns? Check out the Linguiputians’ masterpiece: Tú, usted, vosotros!