Culture

21 untranslatable words worth spreading

Posted by: Tedstaff

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TED translators Dick Lundgren and Els De Keyser with the “21 untranslatable words” tray, at the Open Translation Project workshop before TEDGlobal 2012, June 24, 2012, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Ryan Lash

On the weekend before TEDGlobal began, 22 volunteer translators converged from around the world to talk all day about translating TEDTalks. Among them, these 22 volunteers have translated more than 3,000 TEDTalks — part of a project to share TED in 88 languages and counting.

To celebrate, designer Dick Lundgren (who’s also a TED translator) made up this cool tray, covered in “untranslatable” words from 21 languages. The full word list (with definitions) is below …

21 Words Worth Spreading

Dutch:
pretoogjes: ‘fun-eyes,’ the eyes of a chuckling person 
who is up to
some benign mischief
ˈprɛto:xjəs

Polish
bakalie: any dried fruit, nuts, and candied citrus peel used in baking or added to ice cream
baˈkaljɛ

Croatian
milozvučan: having a voice that sounds nice and sweet
milozʋutʃan

Serbian
мерак: pleasure derived from simple joys, such as spending time feasting and merrymaking
mɛ̌raːk

Norwegian
dugnad: a planned (semi-)volunteer work session in/for a community or local interest group
du:gnad

Spanish
sobremesa: the time spent after lunch or dinner, talking to people you shared the meal with
so.bre.mé.sa

French
savoir-être: knowing-how-to-be, soft skills, the relational equivalent of savoir-vivre
savwarˈɛtr

Czech
panenka: a trick to confuse your opponent, named after Panenka’s surprising penalty in the 1976 European Championship
ˈpanɛŋka

Bulgarian
чародей: an arch-Bulgarian wizard, magician, sorcerer, necromancer, enchanter
ˈt∫arodei

Russian
тьмутаракань: the back of beyond, the middle of nowhere, the underdeveloped depths of the country
tjmʊtərəˈkanj

Greek
φιλότιμο: ‘friend-honour,’ to respect and honour your friends, the quintessence of Greeks
fiˈlɔtimɔ

Italian
fattapposta: ‘made-on-purpose’: passkey of Italian conversation, can mean any object, especially when clarified by a gesture
fat.tapˈpɔsta

Thai
tɕāj: sincere kindness and willingness to help others, even before they asked, without expecting something in return
náːm

Japanese
いただきます: a phrase to start a meal with gratitude to all: from cooks and farmers to lives to be eaten
itadakimasu

Swedish
mångata: a roadlike reflection of the moon in the water
moːnɡɑːta

Klingon
Qapla’: “Success” or “good luck” often used as an exclamation or in parting (“farewell”)
qχɑpˈlaʔ

Latin
aemulatio: Roman alternative to plagiarism: to show respect for literary predecessors by delivering an improved version of their work
aimuˈlaːtiɔː

Arabic
mo:ru:ɐ: the peak of manhood, a mixture of bravery and kindness
mo:ru:ɐ

Chinese
yù: jade, a five-stroke character representing five virtues: benevolence, righteousness, bravery, wisdom, trustworthiness

Armenian
χatʃkɑɹ: ‘cross-stone’, a carved, memorial stele bearing a cross
χatʃkɑɹ

Urdu
goya: a contemplative “as-if” which nonetheless feels like reality
goya

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22 TED translators, plus TED staff, pose with their “21 untranslatable words” platters during the Open Translation Project workshop before TEDGlobal 2012, June 24, 2012, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Ryan Lash