Funny in Translation: From Farsi to French

It’s really neat when you discover words and phrases you thought unique to your language end up in other cultures.  Like the phrase "to walk on eggshells" (to be careful not to offend someone) has a close cousin in French—"marcher sur des œufs.”

But not everything we say in one language translates perfectly into another language. Sometimes ideas get lost in translation. This phenomenon can make learning a new language fun, but extremely frustrating all at the same time.

Like what in the world could this Turkish phrase mean to an English speaker: “denize girse kurutur” (he gets dry if he enters the sea)? Apparently, it means someone who fails at everything he does. Yikes.

And if you have weekend plans to take a trip across a cold frozen area, and I am sure you do, in Finland you can get a precise weather forecast and plan accordingly. The Finnish word “hankikanto,” for example, will alert you to the most firm frozen snow to walk on. This way you’ll know whether to pack your tennis shoes or skis.

So the next time a tourist asks you where the train station is, feel some compassion for him when you respond “Oh, just take a left at the fork in the road”.

And if you want to learn more global lingo, try “stumbling upon” these (but don’t hurt yourself):

Found in Translation: Get inside the mind of a translator and learn how their work affects so much of our daily lives. What may look like an insignificant comment, for example, could escalate to a world conflict if it weren't for their translation skills.

In Translation: This compilation of essays helps us understand the work between translators and the authors of the original text. It's useful for readers interested in the cultural, political and artistic issues that are negotiated during translation.

In Other Words: By linguist Christopher J. Moore, this book reads like a dictionary of unique words and phrases from around the world. Are you curious how to say "what's up" in Sanskrit? Try this book.

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