The most untranslatable words

Thanks a lot to Zoe for bringing my attention to this article on the most untranslatable words in the world (full article here).
The winner is….
ilunga : Tshiluba word for a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time; to tolerate it a second time; but never a third time.
However, I find it odd that the “most untranslatable” English word was voted to be plenipotentiary… I suppose the concept of a person representing a country or organisation, however familiar it is in Western societies, might not be shared worldwide.

By | 2016-10-18T15:51:54+00:00 June 23rd, 2004|Culture|1 Comment

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.

One Comment

  1. Andréas June 24, 2004 at 10:40 am

    I think this list should be renamed ‘list of words most difficult to translate as a single word’
    I say this because for a lot of them the meanings are perfectly clear, indeed the site does a good job of translating them. So they are ‘translatable’ as such although the translated text would have to include copious footnotes.
    The real problem words are those which assume an awareness of a certain culture or convey a certain emotion/judgement (register). To someone not familiar with Englsh culture, for example, why anyone should name unwanted unsolicited email after a proprietary tinned meat product is unfathomable.

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