Ten untranslatable words


You can disagree with someone’s definition of something and still find the thing itself though-provoking. I do it all the time.


Now I need a word for gross generalization. But there is no single word in English that expresses that thought because we like to use more and bigger words because we are all from Texas.


So, a person…




I can’t read that scribbly drawn text. It’s terrible, actually.



(“Post must be at least six characters”? Bof.)

Six characters in search of a loophole

We americans have lots of words for gross generalization, like malarky, hogwash, and bullshit. What we don’t have is a word for is “modest generalization”, or more accurately “moderate generalization is best”.


I’m reminded of all the Americans in the '80s who said that the Russians had no word for détente. Ironically they do, but Americans don’t…


Words, not “words”. You are just in denial about your compounds which work pretty much exactly the same way. For some reason you insist on breaking them up with spaces - except when you don’t. :slight_smile:


I was going to say “Someone a bit more forgiving than a Scotsman”


A book that is similar in theme, but less whimsical

Dictionary of Untranslatables

It is, of course, a translation from the French.


A true Scotsman?


Isn’t there a word for “the tallest branch/spot on the top of a tree” in some language with no English translation?


On Pizzazz:

You know how in Brazil people do things like dance and celebrate and dress up and have fun? We have to have a special word for that because we don’t.

(I kid! I think flair + chutzpah is a very good concept of pizzazz)


Factnazi perhaps?




In theory it might be by the sign - I’m a British Sign Language / English interpreter and translator. BSL has a base lexicon of about 4,500-5,000 signs (depending on who you ask). There are an infinite number of ways of modifying each one. All of them can be “translated”. So what if they can’t be “perfectly” rendered in a single word? You can’t even do that intralingually.


There’s even a German word for “failing to realise that compound words have no more intrinsically expressive power than any other way of expressing yourself”.


Even from the examples given, “Tretar” = “Third cup of coffee” or “second refill”. That’s trivially easy, and familiar to anyone who drinks coffee. It’s not untranslatable, it’s merely mildly interesting that there’s a language with a single word for it.


Or maybe the ostensible “untranslatability” of the words is already subverted by the existence of those descriptions and paintings, and is a conceit exploited here to highlight the inherent communicability of experience and how the variety of human expression is not truthfully limited to the morphic payload of single words.

Just maaaaybe.