Monday, September 28, 2020

Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders

Reviewed by Kristin

Once again, Book Bingo is taking me to strange places and helping me to find books I never would have picked up otherwise. This one is a little bit more roundabout than that, as I searched for a translated book. Tennessee R.E.A.D.S. included this little book in that search and it really caught my eye. Lost in Translation pinpoints unique words for very interesting concepts from around the world.

Did you know that there is a word for the time needed to eat a banana? In Malay, you would call that pisanzapra. For most people, that is about two minutes. Who knew?

Measuring distance rather than time, the Finnish language finds it important to describe poronkusema, the distance reindeer usually roam before needing to stop and rest. At 7.5 kilometers (4.7 miles) that means that Santa and his crew might need a few more breaks that commonly thought.

In German, a word exists for the tangled state that computer cables and cords get into—kabelsalat, which literally means, “cable salad.” As I look toward my feet, I see that I have a kabelsalat right here.

Sanders explores much deeper concepts as well. In Portuguese, saudade describes a “vague, constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, a nostalgic longing for someone or something loved and then lost.” Brazilians even recognize and celebrate a day of saudade every January.

Waldeinsamkeit is German for a very calm feeling, that “feeling of being alone in the woods, an easy solitude and a connectedness to nature.” I think we could all use a lot more of that these days.

A Swedish co-worker recognized fika, meaning “gathering together to talk and take a break from everyday routines, usually drinking coffee and eating pastries…often for hours on end.” She said this is much more commonly used than the Swedish word for a third cup of coffee, tretår.

I keep coming back to German words, and was rather amused by warmduscher, referring to “someone who would only take a warm shower (not an icy cold or burning hot one), implying that they are a bit of a wimp, and unwilling to step outside of their comfort zone.”

I’ll leave you wondering if I have kummerspeck, possibly from exploring pålegg, or if it is just a good case of meraki. It probably has something to do with my habit of tsundoku.

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