“Untranslatable” Words from other Cultures

The relationship between words and their meaning is a fascinating one, and linguists have spent countless years deconstructing it,  trying to figure out why there are so many feelings and ideas that we cannot even put words to, and that our languages cannot identify. This post is from Ella Frances Sanders, writer and illustrator.

Somehow narrowing it down to just a handful, we’ve illustrated some of these wonderful, elusive, words, which have no single word within the English language that could be considered a direct translation. We hope that you enjoy recognizing a feeling or two of your own among them.

1. German: Waldeinsamkeit

A feeling of solitude, being alone in the woods and a connection to nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson even wrote a whole poem about it.

2. Italian: Culaccino

The mark left on a table by a cold glass. Who knew condensation could sound so poetic.

3. Inuit: Iktsuarpok

The feeling of anticipation that leads you to go outside and check if anyone is coming, and probably also indicates an element of impatience.

4.Japanese: Komorebi

This is the word the Japanese have for when sunlight filters through the trees – the interplay between the light and the leaves.

5. Russian: Pochemuchka

                    Someone who asks a lot of questions. In fact, probably too many questions. We all know a few of these.

6. Spanish: Sobremesa

Spaniards tend to be a sociable bunch, and this word describes the period of time after a meal when you have food-induced conversations with the people you have shared the meal with.

9.French: Dépaysement

The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country – of being a foreigner, or an immigrant, of being somewhat displaced from your origin.

10. Urdu: Goya

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The suspension of disbelief that can comes when reading a good tale.

The idea that words cannot always express everything has been written about extensively. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Words are but symbols for the relations of things to one another and to us; nowhere do they touch upon the absolute truth.”

‘Through The Language Glass’ by Guy Deutscher, goes a long way to explaining and understanding these loopholes; the gaps which mean there are leftover words without translations, and concepts that cannot be properly explained across cultures. But wait! Ella Frances Sanders,  author of Lost in Translation (a New York Times bestseller)  has now published a charming illustrated collection of more than fifty expressions from around the globe that explore the nuances of language: The Illustrated Book of Sayings For more see: http://ellafrancessanders.com/the-illustrated-book-of-sayings

I love words don’t you?  One of my favorites is “callipygous” as in a callipygous young lady; Aphrodite was callipygian i.e. “had beautiful buttocks.”   😉  Do you have any to share?

Uprooted and Relocated: Expat File#17

My guest for the Expat Files today is author, copywriter and blogger for hire: June Whittle. At age eleven, June was uprooted from tropical Jamaica to England to live with her parents whom she had not seen since she was four years old. Here is her story.

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Tiger-swallowtail on tropical blossoms

The day started normally like any other. Sunshine beamed down on us. My sisters and I played happily under the large overhanging mango tree. We hunted butterflies to catch and store, in our bottles before releasing them to fly off into freedom.

I loved living in the countryside. We lived humbly. Although we didn’t have much material wealth, we had an abundance of love between us. Our simple lifestyle in Kitson Town, St. Catherine was similar to the butterflies. Free, easy, carefree, happy and fun. Not that I know how butterflies feel. But I imagine they’re happy and have fun flying, taking rest breaks perching on the array of beautiful flowers of their choice.

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Housing Complex, St Catherine, Jamaica

Later that afternoon, an elderly lady walked up the path towards our wooden house. Smiling, she introduced herself as our grandmother, my dad’s mom. I had never seen her before, but my grandmother who we lived with, sometimes spoke about her. She hugged each of us. However, she gave me a lingering hug.

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Local area where I grew up

She went into the house with Sis, my grandmother. My sisters and I carried on playing in the yard. Shortly afterwards they called me to come inside. The decision they made that sunny afternoon changed the course of my life forever.

Sis told me to pack my grip (suitcase) because I was moving to Spanish Town to live with my new grandmother (called Granny). Shocked and unhappy, I packed my clothes fighting back tears. Shortly afterwards, I waved goodbye to the close family I had known all my life. I walked off hesitantly with a woman I had never met before. Disbelief ripped through my whole being and pain tugged at my heart.

How could an 11-year-old girl rebel against decisions adults make? I did as I was told. So, I moved to a new school and a whole new area. A few months later, I began to settle down into my new lifestyle.

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Nevertheless, two years later, another bombshell dropped. Granny told me she was going to the UK and, instead of sending me back to St Catherine’s, I was traveling with her.

I waved goodbye to my familiar family. Three weeks later, I stepped off the boat onto the cold shores of Southampton, England. My mom and dad who left me in Jamaica when I was four came to meet us. And, my little sister who I never met before welcomed me to the cold, damp, grey country. The dreary day matched my mood.

While my dad was driving us to London, the first thing I noticed was how quiet it was. Cars didn’t beep their horns like they did in Jamaica. The houses were joined up and they didn’t have verandas. Plus, for the first time I saw snow.

Soon, I adapted in my new life, new school, new friends and new family in Fulham, London. However, I missed Jamaica, my sisters, friends, Sis and the sunshine. My little sister didn’t help the homesick feeling. She was amazed by my strong Jamaican Patois accent and believed it was her job to teach me to speak the Queen’s English. She corrected my every word. Within six months, I had lost most of my then lifelong accent.

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Me starting my new school in the UK

Life at school, Hurlingham Comprehensive, and in the UK was challenging. I encountered a lot of racism. At school, the girls teased me because I was different from them. I was extremely timid and didn’t have many friends. They mistook my shyness for aloofness.

So, I truanted a lot from school. After mom dropped me off in the mornings, I caught the bus back home. But, one day she came home early and caught me. I was grounded and wasn’t allowed to see anyone outside of school. Anyway, after that incident, I stopped taking unauthorized time off and carried on with my studies. When I finished school at 16, I worked at a few jobs for different companies.

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Me in Amsterdam in the 80’s

I saw my grandmother Sis again. She visited the UK once before she died in 1989. It was blessing to see her and spend quality time with her. She was a strong woman all the way and taught me a lot about the values of life.

My other grandmother, Granny, developed dementia in her 60s and had to go into a home. It broke my heart because she didn’t recognize me the last time I saw her. Sadly, she died in the care home.

Although I felt like I came to the UK by force, as I grew up, I knew it was the best decision my family made for me. I had a wonderful relationship with my mum, dad, grandmother and little sister. And, eventually my two sisters also came to the UK to live.

On reflection, changes in life are not always welcomed. Nevertheless, sometimes that is our destiny, even though we may not be aware of it at the time. If I hadn’t come to the UK, I wouldn’t have had my three beautiful daughters and grandchildren. They are my world.

Like so many expat children (TCKs**) June experienced culture shock, but she also was uprooted from family twice: once from her parents and then from the grandmother who had raised her as a young child and her sisters;  on top of that she had to deal with racism. She also writes about difficult  times, in relationships as a young adult in her book:  Deep Within my Soul: Finding Hope After Abuse           (**TCK is the acronym for “Third Culture Kids” – raised in different cultures, they may end up living in their own “third culture” as an expat.)

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June Whittle

June would be glad to answer any questions you have. Please leave your comments below.

You can also connect with her at the following Links: Miraculous Ladies; Divine Copywriter ; https://www.facebook.com/MiraculousLadies?ref=hl

Wishes for the New Year

HAPPY NEW YEAR AND VERY BEST WISHES TO YOU FOR 2017!

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“LET US RESOLVE TO PUT PEACE FIRST”

new UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ first message

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sweetclipart freeFeliz Ano Nuevo                               Bonne Annee

(May the force be with us … we’re going to need it.) Please add your wishes for the New Year!

Living History Interview – Far East Prisoners of War – by Hilary Custance Green

I’ve been following Hilary Custance Green as she extensively researched and wrote this book.  I have read other books by her and am especially excited to read this one.My own father was shot down twice in the jungles of Burma and might have known these men had he been captured.  (He even looks like Hilary’s father on the book cover – mustache and all!) My mother had no word from him for months and then he staggered out, starving and was hospitalized for some time after.

The source for this post is from writer Sally Cronin: Sunday Living History Interview – Far East Prisoners of War – Hilary Custance Green

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My guest today is author Hilary Custance Green and she will be sharing the story her father’s imprisonment by the Japanese during World War II and the letters that were written to her mother …(and other wives… click above for the full article).

 

The Latin Sound: How the Rumble became a Roar

When I visited the US as a little kid the only Latinos famous there (now “here” to me), were Desi Arnaz and Rita Moreno. Like many people I recognized him from “I Love Lucy” on TV, which was “Yo Quiero a Luci” in Colombia on Friday nights (boy were we surprised to find out Americans watched what we thought was a “Colombian” program!).  But Desi Arnaz was a famous bandleader in Cuba before he married Lucille Ball, before I was born, his conga “Babalu” was well known.i-love-lucy

A lot of Latin music, especially from the Caribbean incorporates an African beat; the queen of salsa, Celia Cruz personified this. She recorded many gold albums with the celebrated bandleader Tito Puente in the ‘60’s.Going farther back to the 1930s, dance halls in New York City embraced the sound of big band Cuban music – the salsa cha-cha and rumba. By 1950 mambo was all the rage and Tito Rodríguez, Tito Puente, and Machito were among the early bandleaders.

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J-Lo-by-deadline

Then Rita Moreno starred in West Side Story and went on to win an Academy Award.  Moreno had no one to emulate, but famous American Latinas today, such as Jennifer Lopez, credit her as their role model.

The “unsung” singers: Latino music appeared to disappear in the 60s but in fact the artists were merely camouflaged under English names. Ritchie Valens (born Richard Valenzuela) hit it big with “La Bambahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jp6j5HJ-Cok; (He died along with Buddy Holly in plane crash; he was only 17 years old, but is remembered especially for the song.) cover170x170

Sam the Sham’s real name was Domingo Samudio – here he is singing “Wooly Bully” :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uE_MpQhgtQ8; Rudy Martinez sang “96 Tears” with a Latino band – the children of migrant farm workers; “Wasted Days and Wasted nightshtps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUVgkXVDkBA       was performed by Freddie Fender aka B. Garza Huerta.  (For some reason this was first a big hit in New Zealand in the 70’s!).  The list goes on.

And then Jose Feliciano, a Puerto Rican who refused to change his name, appeared.  I loved his rendering of the Doors’ “Light My Fire”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lk-5s17L5U  before I knew who the Doors were. That song shot him into mainstream pop fame. j-feliciano

Next on the scene was Carlos Santana.  When I came to college in the States I was pleasantly surprised to find Americans listened to Santana, because I assumed he was a Costa Rican I’d been listening to there! In fact he is a “Chicano” from L.A. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NsJ84YV1oA

Okay so maybe you weren’t alive in the 60s …or the 70’s – you may not know the songs much less the names of these artists.  If you want to hear the music click on one of their songs above – betcha’ you’ve heard it before.

Since the second half of the 20th century a number of artists popularized the romantic Latin ballads, such as Julio Iglesias, his son Enrique Iglesias, Selena, Marc Anthony (Marco Antonio) and Cristian Castro. In the latter half of the 20th century, with immigration from South America and the Caribbean increasing every decade, Latino sounds influenced popular music from jazz, rock, rhythm to blues.

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rickymartin-by-m-windle-getty

 Puerto Rican Ricky (Enrique) Martin hit fame with “Livin’ La Vida Loca“; Cuban icon Gloria Estefan fused pop with Cuban music starting with “Conga.”

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Gloria Estefan

Top of the charts Jennifer Lopez, became a pop diva and then an actress (first playing Selena)… but there are too many Latino actors to name…

I’d have to start with Cantinflas and we’d be here all day! images

(And I already have to apologize to all the Latino artists I have failed to mention in this limited space.)  Viva la Musica!

Did I leave out someone you liked?  I love your comments. Please leave one below.

A Cherished Object (my contribution to the Cherished Blogfest )

My most prized possession is a painting. When I was a baby we lived in Thessaloniki, Greece and my mother bought a lovely watercolour depicting the harbour. That painting hung in my parents’ bedroom all the years I was growing up and well beyond. I used to stare at it and imagine being there – it seemed like a magical place. ct_Image

One day our parents showed us some old black and white photos of our time there. Standard family pictures of the day: my parents so young, me  in my first year (unrecognizable to myself) and then as a toddler playing at the beach with my older sister.   Mother commented,  “That water was so blue.”

Then another old photo of the waterfront, “Look!” I said, “It’s the same harbour with that round tower!”
“It is a famous building,” she told me, “Called The White Tower.”

It was built, probably in the early 1500’s by the Ottomans and was once part of the old city walls. When Greece regained control of the town it was restored and became a symbol of the city.  I vowed to go there someday. As a young adult I asked if I could have that little 2 x 3-inch photograph.  I framed it and set it on my piano. 

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The ancient White Tower and promenade

After my father passed away, Mother wanted one of us to go on a cruise of the Mediterranean with her and I jumped at the chance because one of the ports of calls was Thessaloniki. She was approaching eighty and I was middle aged and I ‘d never been on a cruise. We started in Athens and saw the Acropolis, we went to Rhodes, Ephesus and Istanbul. All marvelous and memorable places I will never forget. The highlight for us, however as you might imagine, was Thessaloniki. We sailed into the harbour and there was the White Tower on the left; to my great delight the scene looked just like the artist’s depiction decades earlier. The painting I knew and loved so well. We toured the city and visited the wonderful Archaeological Museum, but the magical moment for me was just the two of us walking around the tower, touching the stones.

The White Tower, Thesalonika harbor

The White Tower, Thessalonika harbor

Visiting my mother ten years later, I noticed the watercolour on the floor, the glass cracked and the frame broken.  “Would you like me to fix it for you?”  “No,” she said, “You take it, to remember our trip.” She was about to move into assisted living and had to down-size. I had the frame matted in blue to pick up the blue water. The painting now hangs over my piano next to the little black and white photograph where I can look at it everyday. It has become a family heirloom and when my little granddaughter is old enough I will tell her its story and someday she can hang it in her own home.

Thanks to (very popular blogger and talented writer) Damyanti for the invitation to share this memory.  How about you  – do you have a cherished object?

Thailand Dairies, Expat File#15

James King was born in Bristol, England; he lived in South Africa for 15 years and then semi-retired to Thailand in 2008. He lives in Chiang Mai having built a house (two actually) I think he is there to stay.  4-james-king-1424318595-medium

He began his blog, Jamoroki,  and also pursues his love of art and photography. James has written three witty and informative volumes on Thailand that I have excerpted from below. He is currently working on a novel.

from Volume 1 – 15 Weeks 

Between Jun and Sep 2008 I stayed for fifteen weeks on the tropical island of Phuket and it was while based there that I formed my first impressions of Thailand. I made the hour long hop by plane on the occasional business trip to Bangkok and worked remotely on my business in Cape Town, in daily Skype contact. During this period I began to learn a little of what it would be like to live in Thailand permanently. I diarised my activities, observations and some of the more amusing incidents which took place during my 15 week sojourn.

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The flight time to Kuala Lumpur via Johannesburg is approximately twelve hours and we landed on cue at six am local time. My body clock was telling me ‘It is one am.’ but my head was telling me, ‘I know, but I must ignore you and move straight into our new time zone.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Look, it will be tough for a few days but we have to do it.’ ‘OK, if you say so Boss.’ ……… Kuala Lumpur is the best airport I have ever seen. Now hear this – I’m through immigration and customs in five minutes! Throw in a smiling customs official. ‘Enjoy your stay in Malaysia sir.’ Is this real? A trifling wait for baggage because of a technical problem which was announced believe it or not.

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Kata Beach, Phuket (JK)

I planned to make a base in the south of Phuket in Kata Beach.  Kata is a medium sized and very beautiful sandy crescent bay lined with palms and a backdrop of forested hills.  Fortunately it was low season; I don’t know why because apart from more rain in June, July and August it’s great holiday weather, so it’s very quiet and I could easily work and play without any hassle.I rented a one bedroom semi-detached villa. There are 28 in the complex which is set in a delightful tropical garden with a very pleasant landscaped swimming pool right outside my door. The facilities are good, not five star, but more than adequate for my purposes. WIFI internet connection; a little kitchenette, TV, desktop and I was, well, fine and dandy.

Kata Lucky Villas

Kata Lucky Villas

I took a few hours out of the day and drove on my rented scooter bike over the hills through the little villages and tropical forest where elephants were stripping vegetation on the roadside. I found a quiet little restaurant under the coconut palms on the beach at Naiharn and tucked into a delicious lunch of Papaya salad (Som Tum), Fried noodles with chicken (Pad Thai) and a plate of fresh fruit plus a bottle of water (Nam). It was far more than I could eat so a friendly stray dog invited himself to help me out. The bin (bill) came to 120 baht, paradise was free but the dog buggered off without paying!

 

from Volume 2 – Driving Thailand               

“It is very difficult to know people and I don’t think one can ever really know any but one’s own countrymen. For men and women are not only themselves; they are also the region in which they are born….”   W. Somerset Maugham, (1874 – 1965)

Thailand is split into four distinct regions; North (bordering Myanmar and Laos), North-East (bordering Laos and Cambodia), Central and South (bordering Malaysia). Then you have the myriad islands in the Gulf of Thailand and off the West coast in the Andaman Sea. I have attempted to illuminate differences in the history, environment, dialect, attitude and culture in the regions I have lived in or visited.

In order to get the best aspects and feel for Thailand you must drive and walk. I suppose the same could be said about most countries. Unless you are in a hurry, avoid flying as you won’t learn anything cramped up in a plane for two hours. Drive the long distances and walk round the villages and towns. I have driven pretty well through every region, from the borders of Cambodia to Laos and Myanmar, except the deep South. Join me on my road journey through Thailand and I will do my best to give you a glimpse of my beautiful adopted home.

The Rice Nursery

Pulling seedlings and preparing for transplanting

A very good friend of mine; English actor and entertainer Martin Palmer, who has lived in Thailand for 25 years, once told me to stop trying to understand Thai people. When I asked why? He said “Because you never will. I gave up 20 years ago, realised I had to change my thinking radically and have been happy ever since”.

Mello Yello

Misty morning and a yellow hue pervades the valley north of Chiang Mai

Thailand is unfathomable, baffling, inexplicable, magical, perplexing, puzzling, veiled, enigmatic and secretive; in a word ‘mysterious’. If you stay for any length of time in Thailand there will be many times when temptation hooks you up to the internet in search of the cheapest air ticket to anywhere. You will feel like you are banging your head against a brick wall and then fall into the trap of making incomparable comparisons with your country of origin as you become bewildered by the aesthetic discord, pretence and hypocrisy. Everything seems to be broken or is about to break and whenever a workman fixes something it ends up worse than before. You will hear that people are electrocuted in showers ….because most electrical installations are not earthed and the ‘electrician’ (I use that word loosely) is perfectly content to connect several old bits of wire with tape to make up the required length. You wonder why and then you find out that he has saved the customer twenty baht in materials and charged him an extra fifty baht in labour! You are desperately trying to understand a new culture, new customs and a new ‘sign’ language.

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Thanks to James for his beautiful photos and letting us glimpse his Thailand Dairies. To read more visit his blog, Jamoroki. He will let you download Volumes I and II free!  (Volume 3– “Thailand in Perspective” explores the Thai culture, “de-bunks a few myths,” and delves into a “myriad of contradictions…and ancient traditions.”) I’ve never been to Thailand, but it is on my bucket-list.  Please leave your comments or questions below.