Improve my pan-linguistic wordpower
February 18, 2008 5:12 AM   Subscribe

What words should English steal from other languages?

Apropos of this post on the blue I'm looking for words like SchadenFreude, flaneur, kabuki or gestalt which are not part of the current English lexicon, have no direct analog in modern English, but express useful, important or interesting concepts.

(Many of these words seem to come from technical disciplines or have strong cultural overload -- that's fine with me).
posted by unSane to Writing & Language (91 answers total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
 
gemuetlich, gemuetlichkeit
posted by yclipse at 5:15 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey, I already use gemuetlich!
posted by unSane at 5:19 AM on February 18, 2008


ersatz
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:22 AM on February 18, 2008


A second person plural pronoun. Y'all, youse. They're available in dialect English, but really need to be folded back into standard English.
posted by Leon at 5:27 AM on February 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


A Swede might recommend you steal "lagom" which means, essentially, "just enough to suit my needs" or "not too little, nor too much." I find this word irritating since it requires you to bring all of your preconceptions and prejudices about a person to bear in evaluating something as simple as how much coffee they should get. Maybe I just overthink it, though.
posted by beerbajay at 5:30 AM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


From Korea: jeong. It's hard to describe, but this pdf does a decent job of it.
posted by smorange at 5:34 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ersatz, gemuetlich, and gemuetlichkeit are already in English.
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:40 AM on February 18, 2008


Schadenfreude, flaneur, kabuki and gestalt are also part of the English vocabulary.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:42 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


A collective noun for nieces and nephews. My wife and I use 'sobrinos'.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 5:42 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ersatz is definitely already absorbed into English - I see it on as often as I do a lot of other relatively uncommon words, and never written in italics.

Shadenfreude and gestalt, too, though shadenfreude not as much as I'd like - IMHO, it's one of the most egregious words-for-which-we-have-no-substitute.

As for my own contribution: Chutzpah! (though it doesn't get spellchecked as incorrect, so maybe it's more mainstream than I thought?)
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:43 AM on February 18, 2008


Japanese:
懐かしい : natsukashii =
"That brings back memories, doesn't it."
posted by Alison at 5:45 AM on February 18, 2008


Choriki Shorai! (Superpowers Summoned!)
posted by Dizzy at 5:53 AM on February 18, 2008


A friend of mine (non-Japanese) loves the word umami and uses it at every chance he gets. It describes a particular flavor which there isn't a word for in English.
posted by XMLicious at 5:58 AM on February 18, 2008


geram (n) malay - that urge you get to pinch a cute baby's cheeks, or the urge to tell off a coworker who deserves it. Basically an overwhelming urge that you have to struggle to suppress. It's a kind of basic emotion that we somehow don't have a word for.
posted by BinGregory at 6:04 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


差不多 (cha4 bu duo1) is good because it means "approximately" but it is often used as an exclamation.
posted by strangeguitars at 6:09 AM on February 18, 2008


Neat question! A few words that I like:

Insha'Allah (Arabic): Covered here. Often abbreviated to iA.

Chigaimasu (Japanese): (/chih-GUY-moss/) I haven't heard any more succinct, polite way to say "you're wrong." It literally means "it's different", but it is in polite Japanese.

Como? (Spanish): It means, "what?" lit. "how?" But more polite. (when you can't say "excuse me?" or "what?" or "hunh?")

In Brazilian Portugues they have a word for that inflatable guy who is seen flapping around in front of car dealerships. It's like "boneco du posco" or something. I don't know how to spell it.
posted by Laugh_track at 6:16 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I dislike the awkwardness of formations like 'to be able to' in English, and sometimes wish there could be one-word replacements for them like the Romance languages have.
posted by misteraitch at 6:17 AM on February 18, 2008


A friend of mine (non-Japanese) loves the word umami and uses it at every chance he gets. It describes a particular flavor which there isn't a word for in English.

Is it not "savory"?
posted by Laugh_track at 6:18 AM on February 18, 2008


'frieleux' is a lovely French adjective that means 'sensitive to the cold'.
(Great thread by the way.)
posted by greytape at 6:20 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Japanese exhortation "Ganbatte" doesn't have an English equivalent, and it's a great word -- it means a permutation of "work hard," "persevere", and "try your best" with a little bit of "good luck" thrown in.
posted by jeffmshaw at 6:33 AM on February 18, 2008


Is it not "savory"?

Follow the link, you can rewrite the Wikipedia article if you disagree. My friend could definitely be nuts. He randomly twitches sometimes.
posted by XMLicious at 6:38 AM on February 18, 2008


doch!
posted by kisch mokusch at 6:39 AM on February 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


I've got it: entarteur, French for “one who throws pies in the faces of others.”
posted by XMLicious at 6:46 AM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


This Dane often uses the Danish word hyggelig to describe something that's... well, cozy but that word just doesn't cover it. Here's a pretty good definition I found:
Hygge is usually inadequately translated as cosiness. This is too simplistic: cosiness relates to physical surroundings – a jersey can be cosy, or a warm bed - whereas hygge has more to do with people’s behaviour towards each other. It is the art of creating intimacy: a sense of comradeship, conviviality, and contentment rolled into one.

Friends meeting in the street might say that it has been hyggeligt to see each other, and someone who is fun to be with can be called a hyggelig fyr, when he would hardly be described as a cosy fellow. The truly emotive depth of the word hyggelig is best captured by considering its opposite, uhyggeligt, which means anything from cheerless through sinister to downright shocking and grisly.

[...] Achieving hygge generally involves being with friends and family, and eating and drinking.
There's more about hygge here.
posted by sveskemus at 6:47 AM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


My favorite danish word: hygge. It's pronounced sort-of like "HYEUW-g-li" (the 'g' just gets swallowed by the back of your throat).

It means "sharing small, cozy, secure and happy with your friends." Well, not exactly, but the key elements are small and cozy and sharing--it could just as easily be with family, I suppose.

So, getting together with a bunch of old friends at a small pub might be hygge. If there was a storm outside and a warm fire inside the pub, that's even more hygge. If you all locked arms and started singing, that's ultra-hygge.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:52 AM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Fucking JINX.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:53 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Follow the link, you can rewrite the Wikipedia article if you disagree. My friend could definitely be nuts. He randomly twitches sometimes.

I remembered hearing about umami in one of my psych classes. It's definitely it's own flavor. I just have a knee-jerk reaction when I hear a "you-gaijin-wouldn't-understand" claim about Japanese language/culture.

Ayayay! I hope your friend gets better!!

One more: "unsofort unsoweiter" is German for "and so on and so forth". but it sounds cooler and you can abbreviate it usf usw... Actually it's no different from et cetera :(
posted by Laugh_track at 6:53 AM on February 18, 2008


From Hebrew, "dafka" and "stam." I don't speak Hebrew and so I can't quite explain what these words mean. But when my Israeli friends use these words in their English, they make perfect sense and express things I would have found difficult to handle gracefully in English alone.
posted by escabeche at 7:04 AM on February 18, 2008


From Dutch: "lekker" meaning something that feels physically good...it can apply to food, fabric, sex, etc.

Also from Dutch: "gezellig" meaning something sort of like, but not exactly like, "cozy."
posted by bingo at 7:10 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


In "street Spanish" in Mexico, they use a term for a thing that fixes something in an unconventional way. It is used in the same way that a "jury rig" might be used. Here is one, overly simple definition. Chicanada.
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:15 AM on February 18, 2008


I've never been able to confirm this but a lover once told me that the Japanese believe that heartbreak is a physical malady, not just an emotion. She said the word for it was shinpan. Two years later she left me with ample evidence that the Japanese, even if only the Japanese populating her rich inner life, are right.

However, she was not Japanese and could have been talking out of her ass.
posted by dobbs at 7:16 AM on February 18, 2008


HEY GUYS I LIKE JAPANESE TOO
Actually, "genki" is another good one. It's a sort of all-encompassing "well-disposed"/"energetic"/"healthy"/"alert" and doesn't really have a direct equivalent in English (as so many words in that god-forsaken moon language tend to)

full disclosure: I have a degree in that god-forsaken moon language.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:42 AM on February 18, 2008


In Russian, "poltora" means one and a half. It shouldn't take four words to express this concept! "See you in poltora hours" sounds so much better than "see you in one and a half hours."

Ditto for the Russian word "poslezavtra" which means the day after tomorrow.
posted by prefpara at 7:56 AM on February 18, 2008


Again japanese : Shouganai : Nothing can be done about it.
It's the perfect answer to almost everything you have no control over but it also can be made into a shitty excuse.
posted by SageLeVoid at 8:01 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Spanish word nervio, which I discovered in this AskMe. "...The word could be defined as a feeling of such intense affection that one trembles or grits his teeth with restraint so as not to harm the object of his affection. I have heard others allude to the sensation in seemingly bizarre phrases such as, “It’s so cute [that] I want to squeeze it to death.”
posted by ourobouros at 8:06 AM on February 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


From slang Tamil: chumma -- pronounced choo-MA -- it means, approximately, just for the heck of it. Example usage: Why are you wearing that silly hat? Oh, chumma.
It's an amazingly useful word.
posted by peacheater at 8:21 AM on February 18, 2008


From Hindi: chamcha -- pronounced CHUM-cha -- literally means spoon but has taken on the meaning of a boot-licker/sycophant/ardent follower.
posted by peacheater at 8:27 AM on February 18, 2008


strangeguitars said:

差不多 (cha4 bu duo1) is good because it means "approximately" but it is often used as an exclamation.


Not to be anal, but its cha1, not cha4
posted by mphuie at 8:30 AM on February 18, 2008


We definitely need a gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun for referring to people. "Him/her", "He/she"... that is annoying.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:56 AM on February 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


In Nepali (and probably Hindi too, although it might look and sound a little different) there's a phrase "ke garne" (English derivation of course, I dont write in Devanagari) that sort of means an eye-rolling exasperated "What to do?!" when the situation is beyond your control. It also has some humerous undertones. I used it a few times trying to communicate and I always got a big sympathetic smile and a pat on the back. Nice expressive phrase.
posted by elendil71 at 9:02 AM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


+1 for "doch"...it's the equivalent of "yuh-huh", but an actual word!
posted by mynameisluka at 9:03 AM on February 18, 2008


I routinely use a few from Latin.

I think et cetera (or just etc.) has become part of our language. I make frequent use of its sister phrase, et alia, abbreviated et al., which refers to people, just because it saves me from writing out "and the others" or "and other people."

There's also Ibidem, often abbreviated Ibid. (or somewhat incorrectly, Id.), more than the average person.

I'd also recommend distinctions between various kinds of love: I love the Red Sox, my mother, and my girlfriend, but in very different ways. Context usually works, but there are times when the distinction should be made. However, implementing something like the Greek philadelphia to refer to brotherly love, s bound to confuse people, given that some place in Pennsylvania has decided to use the term. ;)

And seconding These Premises Are Alarmed's suggestion: not only "nieces and nephews," but "aunts and uncles."
posted by fogster at 9:05 AM on February 18, 2008


strangeguitars said:

差不多 (cha4 bu duo1) is good because it means "approximately" but it is often used as an exclamation.

Not to be anal, but its cha1, not cha4
posted by mphuie at 8:30 AM on February 18 [+] [!]



Can anyone explain the material copied above ? What language, how written and/or pronounced and/or used in conversation?
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:07 AM on February 18, 2008


egal = german for doesnt matter/unimportant..but you cant really translate it
posted by freddymetz at 9:14 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Weltschmerz: the world weariness, pessimism, apathy, or sadness felt at the difference between physical reality and the ideal state.
posted by Rumple at 9:15 AM on February 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


There's also Ibidem, often abbreviated Ibid. (or somewhat incorrectly, Id.)

Id. is short for idem, not ibidem. It doesn't mean "the same place," just "the same."
posted by stopgap at 9:18 AM on February 18, 2008


Can anyone explain the material copied above ? What language, how written and/or pronounced and/or used in conversation?

That's probably Mandarin Chinese. The numbers represent which tone is used on each syllable. See here, under the link "The syllable 'ma' pronounced with the four main tones".
posted by XMLicious at 9:20 AM on February 18, 2008


From Spanish we should take picante, which mean hot like a habañero pepper, not caliente like from the oven.
posted by nicwolff at 9:33 AM on February 18, 2008


From Spanish we should take picante

We do already have piquant, which I think is the same word via French.
posted by stopgap at 9:40 AM on February 18, 2008


from italian allegro/allegra, used in music, to substitute for gay, which now has a more universally used additional meaning.
posted by francesca too at 10:06 AM on February 18, 2008


strangeguitars said:

差不多 (cha4 bu duo1) is good because it means "approximately" but it is often used as an exclamation.

Not to be anal, but its cha1, not cha4
posted by mphuie at 8:30 AM on February 18 [+] [!]


Can anyone explain the material copied above ? What language, how written and/or pronounced and/or used in conversation?

It's chinese, specifically Mandarin. cha4 bu duo1 (pinyin) is the romanized way to write Chinese. The number at the end represents the correct tone the word should be pronounced in.
* 1st tone: high, level pitch
* 2nd tone: rising intonation
* 3rd tone: dipping intonation
* 4th tone: falling intonation
posted by mphuie at 10:15 AM on February 18, 2008


escabeche: you might like this article about the word dafka
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:33 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Since learning Romanian I've become a fan of alaltăieri, or "the day before yesterday". Much faster, and sounds nice (roughly, "al-altuh-yeri", with the last "i" more hinted at than actually spoken).

geram (n) malay - that urge you get to pinch a cute baby's cheeks, or the urge to tell off a coworker who deserves it. Basically an overwhelming urge that you have to struggle to suppress. It's a kind of basic emotion that we somehow don't have a word for.
posted by BinGregory at 6:04 AM on February 18

cac·o·ë·thes (n.): an irrational but irresistible motive for a belief or action [syn: mania]

(sorry, my pedantic streak got the better of me ... or, it was a cacoëthes ... )
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 10:38 AM on February 18, 2008


Fahrvegnugen. It's generally recognized by Americans, though sadly less so in my generation than my parents', but it's certainly not considered "English", and it would be nice to use it more.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 10:42 AM on February 18, 2008


German: treppenwitz - that blinding retort or flash of inspiration you comes to you too late (the "witz" that comes to you when you are on your way out down the "treppen"); it's known, but not exactly a fully-fledged bit of everyday usage

Russian: mozhno (можно), meaning both "May I?" and, in response maybe, "You may."
posted by londongeezer at 11:19 AM on February 18, 2008


German: treppenwitz - that blinding retort or flash of inspiration you comes to you too late

Funny, the French have a similar expression with a similar explanation--l'esprit de l'escalier (lit: stairway wit)--though they don't have the German convenience of smushing their words together.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:51 AM on February 18, 2008


We do already have piquant, which I think is the same word via French.

No, piquant in English just means "spicy" or "flavorful" - I'm looking for a word that I could say as someone lifts a fork of food to their mouth that means "that's gonna hurt!"
posted by nicwolff at 12:12 PM on February 18, 2008


I, personally, usually think of "doch" as something along the lines of "however."

Also, this thread has a lot of good ones.
posted by atomly at 12:39 PM on February 18, 2008


Samoud, from Arabic, which means steadfastness, strength and endurance through hardship.

And I'm not at all sure that this is what you're looking for, but in Spain, they curse by saying "Me cago en Dios!" which means "I shit on God!," and there is not a curse word or phrase in the English language which is nearly as colorful, blasphemous and descriptive.
posted by streetdreams at 12:47 PM on February 18, 2008


op, remember capitalisation matters in german: Schadenfreude and Gestalt.

the one word english should really steal from german? doch (sorta means 'however' or 'still'). simply because there is no english term to express just what this does to a sentence.
posted by krautland at 12:47 PM on February 18, 2008


friolero and salero.
posted by Wilder at 12:48 PM on February 18, 2008


Damn. I was gonna suggest hyggelig, but since two big jerks up there spied on my brain and posted ahead of me, here's another common Danish word:
jo (pronounced "yo"): means, as best as I can tell, an emphatic "not 'no', but 'yes'"
For example:
Hvil du ikke har middag? (Will you not have lunch?)

Jo! (Not "no", but "yes"!)
Note that either "yes" (ja) or "no" (nej) would have been an ambiguous answer to the question.

There. There is my Danish, such that it is.

Please stay out of my brain in the future. kthnx
posted by LordSludge at 1:19 PM on February 18, 2008


From Swedish, I suggest you take Orka, which is to have the energy to do things. If you'd rather stay at home and watch TV, you say "Nah, jag orkar inte". It's like "can't be bothered" but more versatile and with no rudeness about it.
posted by springload at 2:07 PM on February 18, 2008


Another way to explain the use of jo would be to say that it indicates that the person saying jo wants to give a positive response to a question that contains the word not. In English I think one would need to repeat the verb of the question in order to make sense. If the question is asked without the word not you would use ja.

Er du ikke glad? (Are you not happy?)
Jo! (Yes (I am)!)

The same conversation but this time without the not:

Er du glad? (Are you happy?)
Ja! (Yes!)

Actually, re-reading what I've just written I have no idea if it makes it any clearer.
posted by sveskemus at 2:15 PM on February 18, 2008


BinGregory: Huh, I always though "geram" means "frustrated". Suppose that explains all the confusion about mothers being frustrated at squeezing baby cheeks.

Greg Nog: Malay has such a word - "dia". Third person gender neutral.

In Malay, there are different ways to define love.

Cinta = lovers, God, nature, country
Sayang = general affection
Kasih = to care for something, usually nature but people are also involved sometimes. Not as strong as "sayang"

"Pedas" is chilli hot, while "panas" is heat hot. I find this so much more useful than just "hot".

In Japanese, there are two words for no - I forgot which one means "no thanks, maybe later" while "dame" means "no, absolutely not". Very useful device to differentiate between "No thanks, I'm full" and "No, I cannot eat this". Japanese also had a bunch of very handy words (omoshiroii!!) but I can't remember them all now.
posted by divabat at 3:28 PM on February 18, 2008


In Bengali, there are different words to describe your relationship to your aunts and uncles.

Mama - mother's brother
Mami - mother's brother's wife
Khalamuni - mother's sister
Khala/Khalu - mother's sister's husband
Chacha - father's brother
Chachi - father's brother's wife
Fupi - father's sister
Fupi - father's sister's husband

I think you would describe your mother's sister's husband's sister as Chachi, since the closest relative you have to her is through your uncle. I might be wrong though.

Your maternal grandparents are Nana and Nanu, and your paternal grandparents are Dada and Dadu.
posted by divabat at 3:37 PM on February 18, 2008


I like the Uzbek way of adding "muh" onto the end of questions that don't have a who, what, when, where or why in the sentence.

example: Are you hungrymuh?
posted by tarvuz at 4:30 PM on February 18, 2008


U is the Uzbek word that signifies "he, she or it"

prounounced as "oo"
posted by tarvuz at 4:33 PM on February 18, 2008


Can the Finnish hän join the gender-neutral third person singular party? (The ä is pronounced just like the a in words such as tan, pan and fan.)

divabat, is the gender-neutral dia the only third person singular in Malay, or are there gender specific words for he/she as well? In Finnish there aren't.
posted by Anything at 6:07 PM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not a single word, but I have been lead to believe that in Georgian there is a verb conjugation that means "I don't want to , but I will if I have to". I could use that.
posted by procrastination at 7:10 PM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


lạn - vietnamese for "100 grams" a very useful abbreviation for doing your metric markets.

"Do your market(s)" is itself a phrasing borrowed from French which I think is more accurate than "go to the market"
posted by grubby at 9:59 PM on February 18, 2008


Anything: "dia"'s the only third person singular pronoun. You infer he/she from context.
posted by divabat at 11:12 PM on February 18, 2008


I have no specific recommended word, unSane, but I can recommend Howard Rheingold's book, They Have a Word for It: A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words & Phrases, which deals with your question pretty much throughout, and is fun to read and to browse.
posted by cgc373 at 1:33 AM on February 19, 2008


lạn - vietnamese for "100 grams" a very useful abbreviation for doing your metric markets.

There is an equivalent S.I. word, hectogram (hg), where "hecto-" refers to the Greek "hecato" (hundred), not "hecto" (sixth).

posted by ersatz at 2:59 AM on February 19, 2008


Seconding "egal". I translate it as irrelevant, but egal has that long "a" to really put the full weight of your complete indifference and disdain into.

Another of my favourites is "geniessen". It means to savour or consume with appreciation. Particularly useful when eating, drinking or just looking at a view.

I must say that I find the translation of "doch" as "on the contrary" odd. I learnt it by immersion, and only ever heard it used as an emphasis. (similar to "so" when used for emphasis) It was often used interchangeably with "ja" (yes), but was generally more disapproving. It's a cool word to be sure, though I'm not sure I need it.
posted by kjs4 at 3:53 AM on February 19, 2008


The use of the word 'oder' at the end of a sentence in german is really usefull. For example:
'Gehen wir zum Bar, oder?' is perfect to indicate that you want to go to a bar, you agreed to go to the bar, however it shows a tiny hesitant if it is actually a good idea. It leaves a door wide open to say 'hey actualy, let's go to the movies instead'.

It's more common in swiss-german and if overused drives german people absolutely insane.
posted by sebas at 5:58 AM on February 19, 2008


I'll chime in with a few semi-dialect words from Northern England which I use all the time, but which mean nothing to folk here in Canada, sadly:

Clarty: Muddy, with the kind of mud that sticks to your shoes. "It's clarty out in t' yard".

Mithering: Annoying, relentless complaining about minor grievances. "Stop yer mitherin'!". Familiar to anyone who listens the The Fall.

Chuntering: Similar to mithering, but not necessarily complaining. Still annoying. "He was chuntering on about something or other, but I tuned out".

Mardy: Describing a petulant, grumpy child whose arms are folded and whose bottom lip is stuck out. "She's a mardy bugger".

Here in Canada my family uses 'rangy' with a hard G to describe kids who are overtired.
posted by unSane at 7:47 AM on February 19, 2008


Also, 'scrunter' to describe a grumpy old person, although I see the Urban Dictionary has it as a term for an ugly woman.
posted by unSane at 7:49 AM on February 19, 2008


Random thoughts when reading this post.

To the people who said 'egal' (German): might I suggest 'whatever'? It has exactly the same meaning.

The Danish 'jo' extists in French as "si!" and in Dutch as "jawel"

Tu n'as pas faim? - Si.
Heb je geen honger? - Jawel.

I think in English, the meaning is conveyed by use of the word "sure".
Don't you want to eat first? - Sure.
Although I do agree that English usually needs an extra confirmation.

And about umami: it's supposed to be a fatty, salty, extremely satisfactory taste that's to be found in cured ham (or salamis), bread with olive oil, ripe cheeses like parmiggiano, tomato sauce that has cooked for a long time. In English, that's called: pizza.

My own two cents: I think a people as obsessed by apocalyptic doom, weapons of mass destruction and God as Americans could probably use the word Gotterdämmerung (twilight of the gods).
posted by NekulturnY at 8:28 AM on February 19, 2008


Umami is sometimes regarded as the 'fifth' taste, triggered by MSG (which cured meats and ripe cheeses are rich in).
posted by unSane at 8:31 AM on February 19, 2008


Oh, yeah, divabat -- I forgot about the Danish words for grandparents. Rather than a generic "grandmother" or "grandfather", they have more specific words:

mormor = mother's mother
farmor = father's mother
morfar = mother's father
farfar = father's father

...where "mor" = mother, and "far" = father, so it's real simple and sensible.

I don't know if they do uncles as farbror & morbror, or aunts as farsoster & morsoster (forgive the spelling -- can't find the danish characters right off hand, plus, well, jeg er Americansk...), or cousins that way. Perhaps sveskemus can confirm.
posted by LordSludge at 8:51 AM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


My own two cents: I think a people as obsessed by apocalyptic doom, weapons of mass destruction and God as Americans could probably use the word Gotterdämmerung (twilight of the gods).

Fie on your hypermultisyllabic Germanisms! We already use Ragnarok and Armageddon and they sound cooler.
posted by XMLicious at 8:54 AM on February 19, 2008


I usually just see umami used as-is in English. For example, in this excellent Malcolm Gladwell article about ketchup.

And it sounds like "jo," "si," "jawel" and "doch" are all very similar and everybody agrees that English needs an equivalent.

Also, "egal" is kind of like saying "whatever" in English, but it has a less negative tone to it, in my experience. I love using it.
posted by atomly at 11:15 AM on February 19, 2008


geram (n) malay - that urge you get to pinch a cute baby's cheeks, or the urge to tell off a coworker who deserves it. Basically an overwhelming urge that you have to struggle to suppress. It's a kind of basic emotion that we somehow don't have a word for.

Well, we do have compulsion, which seems to fit that definition.

And didn't the German languange just very recently do away with the enormous complex words? In any case, they seem like cheating to me.

I was going to suggest the Swedish mormor, morfar, farmor, and farfar -- very useful -- but LordSludge beat me to it.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:25 PM on February 19, 2008


I don't know if they do uncles as farbror & morbror, or aunts as farsoster & morsoster (forgive the spelling -- can't find the danish characters right off hand, plus, well, jeg er Americansk...), or cousins that way. Perhaps sveskemus can confirm.

Almost. We cut off part of søster like this:

Farbror = father's brother
Morbror = mother's brother
Faster = father's sister
Moster = mother's sister
posted by sveskemus at 2:54 PM on February 19, 2008


The use of the word 'oder' at the end of a sentence in german is really usefull. For example:
'Gehen wir zum Bar, oder?' is perfect to indicate that you want to go to a bar, you agreed to go to the bar, however it shows a tiny hesitant if it is actually a good idea.


I know, right?
posted by stopgap at 4:16 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


From Korea: jeong. It's hard to describe, but this pdf does a decent job of it.

A similar question to this was asked in the past, and jeong was one of the six words (along with kibeun, han, chemyeon, neunchi, and bunuiki) I suggested that describe not only foundation concepts of Korean culture, but things that are difficult to explain succinctly (or at all) in English. Here.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:47 PM on February 19, 2008


Doch can mean 'however' when used in a sentence construction, yes, but I gather the usage that was being thought of is more along the lines of

1: Du kannst ja überhaupt nichts richtig machen
2: Doch!

There are better examples of the defiance but they escape me.

Along the same lines, I nominate "Na und?". Literally it means "Yeah, and?" but it's so much more biting and snarly.

I'm a nice person, really.


Also,
差不多 (cha1 bu duo1) means literally "not much off". A nice(r) way to say "Mm, passable, I suppose."
posted by Phire at 9:39 PM on February 19, 2008


Divabat - That's probably the closest one-word equivalent, but I don't think it covers the full range of meaning. To me, being frustrated has this upset quality that geram doesn't always. Compulsion might be closer. "Fed up" or "can't stand it", depending on the situation. My daughter, who is 2 1/2, will sneak up on you when you're not looking and squeeze your elbow skin, the wrinkly part. Why? "Me geram!", she says. She just couldn't help herself.

I think the luke parker fiasco has it. cacoëthes : I guess I need to improve my mono-linguistic wordpower; that was greek to me.

Interestingly, the word geram comes from the Persian, meaning passion, at least according to my handy dictionary. My guess is it went from meaning "passionate" to "hot & bothered" to its current meaning. Just a guess though. IANALinguist
posted by BinGregory at 10:57 PM on February 19, 2008


English is missing the "La" of Singapore and Shanghai. For example:

Exclamtion: Let's finally go!
Answer: Okay, la!

or

- I'll give you 10 Yuan
- Add a little bit, la!

The exact same construct can be found in many western african languages. "Da" is used in Ibibio as in the first example, but for the second example, should be prepended to the sentence, and indicates irritation, whereas the shanghainese version indicates supplication.

In ghanaian pidgen english, the second usage above is sometimes done with "abeg", from "I beg"

- Add a little bit, abeg!
posted by markovich at 9:42 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


From Hawaiian
pono - upright, moral, fair, just

There are a few others I use all the time, but pono carries a lot of strength for such a tiny word.
posted by onalark at 6:53 PM on February 22, 2008


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