Monday, January 3, 2011

Blending Foreign Words with English

Translation is at best an echo. – George Burrows

Kiortame pivdluaritlo (Eskimo). Blwyddyn Newydd Dda! (Welsh). Sawadee Pee Mai (Thai). Naya Saal Mubbarak Ho (Urdu). Kenourios Chronos (Greek). Or as we say in America, Happy New Year! Thanks to, I discovered New Year wishes were easily translatable into many languages.

Even though I can only use the terms around my husband, I’ve added a few expressions to my vocabulary from the various international places I’ve lived. It’s fun and sometimes foreign words or phrases express a concept or feeling better than the English equivalent, if there is one.

Pronunciation could be a problem, but recently I ran across more foreign words that I’d like to add to my personal use list. I found them in an article titled “20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Around the World” by Jason Wire. This article led me to “20 More Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Around the World.” Since the author did come up with definitions, I am assuming by untranslatable he meant that there is no comparable English word.

I liked all he words he listed, but I only selected five of my favorites. I think these words would be good additions to our English language.

Mamihlapinatapei - Yagan (indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego) – the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start.

Tartle -Scottish – The act of hesitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.

Wabi-Sabi -Japanese –a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.

Cafuné- Brazilian Portuguese – The act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair.

Jayus -Indonesian – a joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh.

Do you ever add foreign words to your conversations? Do you have a favorite foreign word or phrase?

I hope everyone’s New Year got off to a great start that only gets better with each passing day. Thanks for stopping by today. I hope to see you again next week.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Happy New Year, Jane! Love these words, especially the Scottish one. :)

I don't use too many foreign words in writing or conversation--and the ones I use are so frequently used that folks might not know they're foreign!

Jim Murdoch said...

Since I'm from Glasgow it's fun to incorporate the odd Scotticism in my blog posts. I usually have to explain it but the Glaswegian dialect is so rich that it's a shame not to add a few in just to spice things up.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

"Mind the gap" is about as foreign as I get - LOL!

Old Kitty said...

I steer clear to avoid embarassing myself!! But I do love learning of these gorgeous words and phrases!!! Thanks for sharing! Take care

Carol Kilgore said...

I wouldn't even attempt to pronounce the first one. I especially love tartle and wabi-sabi. Have a wonderful 2011.

DazyDayWriter said...

Happy New Year, Jane! Hope your holidays were joyful and not too hectic. It's a fine line, isn't it, between busy and way too busy! Good post to start the year ... blended families, blended lives, blended languages. It's always fun to find a few foreign words in a book -- especially when the author uses them in just the right way. Take care and enjoy the 1st week of January. (I'm guesting for Mary Tabor this week -- her author blog is @ -- so please drop by if time!) --Daisy

Karen Walker said...

Hi Jane. Happy New Year. I love these, especially the Japanese one. It's something I'm working on in my own life - now I have a name for it.

Stephen Tremp said...

I added one .. gedanken, a German word for "thought experiment."

Linda Leszczuk said...

There are a handful of Yiddish words I like to sprinkle in. Most are generally known and do a better job of conveying the thought than their English counterparts. Although I frequently have to double check the spelling.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Elizabeth, “tartle” was one of my favorites and one that, unfortunately, happens to me often.

Jim, though I had some trouble understanding the folks in Scotland, I enjoyed listening to them speak during my visits there. I think it’s a great idea to add Scotticisms to your posts.

Diane, “mind the gap” is one of my favorite British phrases, too. In fact, I have a Christmas ornament that’s the Underground symbol with those words on it.

Old Kitty, I know I must mangle that first word on the list every time I try to pronounce it. I’d never attempt saying it out loud in public! )

Carol, you picked my two favorites. I try to say the first word, but I can’t get it out in one breath and I’m quite sure I’ve never gotten close to the actual pronunciation.

Daisy, thanks. My holidays were great. Lots of family time. Christmas with a 4-year-old was hectic - but full of fun. I’ll be by to visit later today.

Karen, happy New Year to you, too. I love the concept of “wabi-sabi.”

Stephen, that’s a great word. Thanks for adding it.

Linda, my grandmother used to sprinkle her conversation with Yiddish words. Every time I hear one, it brings back fond memories.

The Golden Eagle said...

I love the concept of Wabi-Sabi.

Hart Johnson said...

I absolutely adore wabi sabi!

I have a couple Spanish and Italian words I use regularly at home:

Basta (enough)
Calmate (calm down)
Vallamos (not even sure I'm spelling that right, but it's 'we're going'--though I use it for COME ON!)

They might or might not be related to scolding my children...

Helen Ginger said...

Man, I soooo tartle all the time. I cover myself, though, by stumbling through a jaynus.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Does the Klingon language count as foreign?

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Golden Eagle, I think English needs that word.

Hart, we use “basta” all the time around our house, too.

Helen, I love it!

Alex, Klingon is about as foreign as you can get. I’d certainly count it!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jane .. love these - especially tartle .. and now with Helen's description Jaynus .. I use a few french words: 's'il vous plait', 'en famille', and a smattering of Italian, Spanish & Afrikaans - but I do not speak any of the other languages = typically British!

Thanks and I love Stephen's 'gedanken' - & I use 'slaghuis' for part of my surname .. Butcher.

Cheers - Hilary

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I adore 'tartle'. That's one to remember. Thanks for these, Jane!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Hilary, not speaking other languages may be typically British, but it’s also typically American. However, that doesn’t stop me from having fun using or misusing bits and pieces from other languages. I like your substitution for Butcher.

Elspeth, I think “tartle” is a favorite because we’ve all been in that position at one time or another.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Those are such lovely words. But the words are so precious, I would hoard them rather than use them meaningfully in conversation.

I've seen it in reverse too. Do you know sanguine has now entered the Bengali vocabulary? People you would never expect use that word in everyday conversation.

Helen Ginger said...

I don't add foreign words, but I am so going to use tartle. I go with my husband to convention once a year and I can't remember names from year to year. If my DH forgets to tell me their names, I'm going use the codeword "tartle."

Darcia Helle said...

Happy New Year, Jane!
I would love to add foreign words to my speech but pronouncing them is an issue for me. I simply cannot get anything but a New England accent out of my mouth. I grew up in a Portuguese-speaking home, took 4 years of French, and my husband speaks German. The end result? I speak only English. But I love your word choices. And, while I won't speak them out loud, I might just slip them into something I'm writing!

Priya Shankar said...

Hi Jane! I just found your blog through Rayna's. You had mentioned that you had traveled to Saudi Arabia and, as an avid traveler, I thought I would stop by and take a look. I actually was living in India the last year and plan on going back soon, so I blend TONS of words haha. Sometimes that Indian accent will pop up out of nowhere too. =)

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Rayna, I love that you are a word hoarder! Sanguine is an unusual word to hear in everyday conversation. I hope people are using it as an expression of optimism and not as a color description.

Helen, I like the idea of having a code word at an event like that.

Darcia, English is my only language, too, and I still manage to butcher it!

Priya, thank you for stopping by. India is one place I haven’t visited, but I am fascinated by all that I read about it. I can only imagine that you can blend some very interesting words into your conversations.

Arlee Bird said...

It would be great to condense those phrases and actions into single words.

Tossing It Out

Jen Chandler said...

Any time I learn a foreign phrase or word, it finds its way into my conversations. Lately, I've been teaching myself Russing. I love to yell "Nyet!" instead of "no" when my dog starts acting up. works!

PS: I tartle all the time! I'm terrible with names. Now I have a word for it. And I LOVE the concept of wabi-sabi.

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