Mamihlapinatapai. Bet you don’t know what that means, and why would you anyway? It’s one of the hundreds of words in the world that simply cannot be translated into English. There is no equivalent or easy way to express it, they’re just that beautiful that they have to stay as they are.
Thanks to Ella Frances Sanders’ book, Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World, we now get these quirky phrases and what they mean. The mark left on your skin after wearing something tight? There’s a name for that. That homesick feeling for a place you’ve never even been to? There’s a name for that as well. These words feel mystical and even magical, as though there is nothing else that could capture the essence of it. I can guarantee you will understand many of these, even if you don’t speak the language:
Orange is the new… word. Seriously, it’s only been around since the Renaissance. Before that, English speakers were making do with the term ‘yellow-red,’ or even referring to orange things as simply ‘red.’ The word orange was only invented following the fruit’s arrival in Europe.
In their article on the subject, Atlas Obscura notes that “the roots of the word “orange” come from the Sanskrit term for the orange tree: nāraṅga. Traders traveled with the nāraṅga across the Middle East, and it became the Arabic naaranj. When Islamic rule spread to southern Italy and Spain in the Middle Ages, the orange tree made it to Europe.”
The word became naranja in Spanish and arancia in Italian, losing the initial ‘n’ in both it’s English and French incarnations. The word ‘orange’ had infiltrated many European languages by the 1300s, and had begun to be used to refer to the fruit.
Atlas Obscura comments that according to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘orange’ began to be used to refer to such a color in the context of clothing around the 16th century. Around this time, sailors from Portugal brought nicer tasting oranges from China to Europe. Interestingly, ‘China apple’ “is still a synonym for orange in a number of languages, including Dutch and Ukrainian…Even in China, the orange’s likely birthplace, the characters for the fruit and the color are the same.”
So there you have it: your little language evolution tidbit for the day.
The Harry Potter series has touched so many across the globe. Central Michigan University chose to celebrate this global diversity by having a team of students, faculty, and international students turn up on February 22nd to do a multilingual reading of the fifth book, The Order of the Phoenix!
Image Via BBR Education
From 4:30 PM to 10:30 PM, thirteen languages were celebrated in this multilingual reading at Central Michigan University. The school hopes that the reading will encourage students to study languages other than their first, and the turnout was encouraging! Twenty-three students and faculty actually participated in the reading, but many more showed up, enjoying non-alcoholic butter beer and other savory treats.
The reading began with Camilla De Bernardi, a freshman from Italy, who read in her native Italian, and progressed to other languages every fifteen to twenty minutes. Some of the represented languages were Polish, Spanish, Chinese, Romanian, American Sign Language, as well as many others. Some native English-speakers also chose to read in foreign languages like Brock Crystal who read in German to help him master the language further. During the event, certain Harry Potter phrases and words were portrayed on a screen to help listeners follow along.
Image Via Pottermore
There’s nothing better than seeing global unity, and what better way to celebrate that unity than through the magical world of Harry Potter?
The English language is ridiculous. There are all sorts of rules that aren’t actually rules, like “I before E except after C,” which, unfortunately enough for both ESOL students and English-speaking students, is more often than not incorrect.
And then there are words that are plural, even when they’re singular. These words are known as pluralia tantum, which is Latin for “plural only.” Here are ten of the most common.
Image via Fast Co. Designs
Like number two on our list, you could say that the plurality comes from the multiple parts that form a whole. Scissors have two blades, after all. You’d never ask for “that scissor over there”.
Image via NY Mag
Pants are one object, but they are a pair. Pairs come in twos. Two is more than one. Ta-da, plural!
Image Via The Order of Preachers
The thing about riches is that you’d need a lot of money to be able to call your hoard of gold “riches.”
Image via Times Higher Education
When’s the last time you only had one jitter? If you’re getting jitters, you’re getting jitters.
Image via The News Wheel
You don’t just get into one shenanigan. You get into multiple shenanigans, of course.
Image via Szzljy
Sure, billiards is a singular game, but within billiards there are multiple billiards. How novel!
Image via Betplayers
I like to think that news is plural because it never stops. You don’t just get one piece of news, you get a never-ending media filibuster of terrible news, over and over and over again. Wheeee!
Image via The Telegraph
The only type of eyewear that’s singular is the monocle. Because it’s a monocle.
Image via iStock
Pluralia tantum are more often than not objects with a pairing of two identical things—glasses—but it’s also a way to describe a large collection of not-so-similar things, like shirts, pants, skirts, or jackets. Aka, clothes.
Image via Fun With Science
As a verb or a noun, remains is plural at its core, though when used as a pluralized verb, is spelled singularly. John remains, but John and Susie Q remain. Isn’t that fun? Don’t worry, I know it’s not.
An exophonic writer is someone who writes in a language other than the first language they learned. Though you might be familiar with many of these writers, you might be surprised to learn some of them did not originaly speak the language you’d assume.