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Lost in Translation

When a Lampadato travels along the Weißwurstäquator – Every so often, you encounter a word in some language that takes a journey to explain.

Kweesten (Netherlands)

Henry Reed Stiles wrote a book in 1871 mentioning a strange form of romance practised on Dutch islands. She would leave windows and doors open at night, yet hides under her covers. He arrives, and without sneaking a peek, talks to her in the hope persuasion’s powers will win her over. Today’s internet crowd spells it ‘Queesting’ and the free-loving Dutch have long erased it from their vocabularies. Whoever uses it, the word remains singular in both meaning and self control.

Uitwaaien (Netherlands)

3000km of levees cannot change this phenomenon. The wind in the Netherlands has been upending tulips and bikers since the dawn of time. Not only windmills profit from bluster: People in Holland go for strolls in this windy weather and call that uitwaaien.

Lagom (Swedish)

If the Viking drinking-horn allowed everyone lounging at the table to take a generous sip, they would speak of Laget om. The term has changed slightly over the centuries; however, the Swedish preference for the happy medium is unabated. Lagom has come to mean not too much but never too little.

Talkoot (Finnish)

When those pesky elks block roads again or whenever the roof of the local kindergarten needs repair, citizens of a Finnish community meet for a Talkoot. This means uncomfortable work that needs some communal attention. Of course, this couldn’t happen without the customary eating and drinking or scrubbing the dirt off in the sauna afterward.

Ølfrygt (Danish)

Snow descended onto the Viking long-houses; the cold oozed in through window frames. However, inside, in toe-tingling warmth, beer glasses chinked Skåll! in unison. It’d be a perfect party if not for a paralysing fear tormenting the guests. This Viking word, literally translating as ‘ale fright’, has taken the world by storm: Ølfrygt, the fear that one might run out of beer.

Esprit d‘escalier (French)

“Well, uhm, mh.” Whenever that nasty secretary again drops a hint on your short skirt, you are absolutely unable to come up with any answer but for a puzzled grin. The adequate tit-for-tat response only comes to mind when you’re already on your way downstairs. – Fifty steps too late to prove your wit.

Koshatnik (Russian)

Whoever travels through villages like Nishnij Nowogorod better bring his or her own bread. If you arrive famished and desperate for a bite, make sure to steer well clear of anything or anyone titled ‘Koshatnik.’ What might sound like a convenient take-away owner to untrained ears, is actually a seller of stolen cats.

Lampadato (Italian)

Every country has the type. Jogging trousers, hair dyed an obnoxious blonde, an eye-catching car with platinum rims. Their most important trait is, however, that perfect tan, even in regions and seasons where the brown could easily be mistaken for rust. The Lampadato knows to help himself and doesn’t miss a session in his favourite tanning booth.

Yakamoz (Turkish)

“Darling, look how the moon is mirrored and reflected by the silvery sea…” Some lovers might already be asleep or have fled the scene in disgust, a true romantic might wish for a shorter term to describe his beloved phenomenon. A pity if this person does not speak Turkish, as then the matter would be settled in one word.

Evgi, ask, sevda, tutku, karasevda, hoslanmak, divane (Turkish)

“You know it’s not that I don’t love you, but sometimes I love you while I love Tina, all at the same time...” Confused? Maybe you’d prefer to continue this discussion in Turkish – every kind of love has its own denomination in Turkish.

Weißwurstäquator (German)

The Weißwurst — a lightly coloured sausage made of veal and bacon - just celebrated its 150th anniversary. This silly sausage has also created a serious geographic phenomenon. The Weißwurstäquator divides Germany into two. In the south, especially Bavaria, they eat it for breakfast. In the north, many think that sucking cooked veal out of a pig’s gut topped with sweet mustard is a crime (northerners normally don’t sweeten mustard, but that’s another story). No consensus exists on where the boundary runs, but you’ll be hard pressed to find people who go both ways.

Author: Frida Thurm

Illustration: Nina Weber

Translation: Isabel Georgi


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