Oy vey, some things defy translation

Saturday, 2 November 1996

Ever stop to think about how some words defy translation?

THERE are some words we cannot really express in English. Those of us who have sufficient ubuntu may be able to grok each other while others, no matter their chutzpah, are reduced to angst.

So let's put aside abortion, corruption, crime, and examine this issue seriously.

Neeven Soodyall, economist at the Eskom Pension Fund, sent me these pearls of wisdom which were English subtitles on Hong Kong films:

The bullets inside are very hot. Why do I feel so cold?

How can you use my intestines as a gift?

Beware! Your bones are going to be disconnected

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I got knife scars more than the number of your leg's hair!

Beat him out of recognisable shape!

You daring lousy guy.

I'll fire aimlessly if you don't come out!

You always use violence. I should've ordered glutinous rice chicken.

Quiet or I'll blow your throat up.

Who gave you the nerve to get killed here?

Take my advice, or I'll spank you without pants.

Damn, I'll burn you into a BBQ chicken!

A normal person wouldn't steal pituitaries.

Same old rules: no eyes, no groin.

Gun wounds again?

Fatty, you with your thick face have hurt my instep.

I am damn unsatisfied to be killed in this way.

What's going on here? We clearly need to develop an enhanced vocabulary. So, Neeven has submitted the following words in support of this goal.

accordionated (ah kor' de on ay tid) adj. Being able to drive and refold a road map at the same time.

aquadextrous (ak wa deks' trus) adj. Possessing the ability to turn the bathtub tap on and off with your toes.

aqualibrium (ak wa lib' re um) n. The point where the stream of drinking fountain water is at its perfect height, thus relieving the drinker from (a) having to suck the nozzle, or (b) squirting himself in the eye.

burgacide (burg' uh side) n. When a hamburger can't take any more torture and hurls itself through the grill into the coals.

carperpetuation (kar' pur pet u a shun) n. The act, when vacuuming, of running over a string or a piece of lint at least a dozen times, reaching over and picking it up, examining it, then putting it back down to give the vacuum one more chance.

disconfect (dis kon fekt') v. To sterilise the sweet you dropped on the floor by blowing on it, somehow assuming this will Œremove' all the germs.

ecnalubma (ek na lub' ma) n. A rescue vehicle which can be seen only in the rearview mirror.

eiffelites (eye' ful eyetz) n. Gangly people sitting in front of you at the movies who, no matter what direction you lean, follow suit.

elbonics (el bon' iks) n. The actions of two people manoeuvring for one armrest in a movie theatre.

elecelleration (el a cel er ay' shun) n. The notion that the more you press an elevator button the faster it will arrive.

frust (frust) n. The small line of debris that refuses to be swept onto the dust pan and keeps backing a person across the room until she finally decides to give up and sweep it under the rug.

lactomangulation (lak' to man gyu lay' shun) n. Manhandling the "open here" spout on a milk container so badly that one has to resort to the 'illegal' side.

neonphancy (ne on' fan see) n. A fluorescent light struggling to come to life.

peppier (pehp ee ay') n. The server at a fancy restaurant whose sole purpose seems to be walking around asking diners if they want ground pepper.

petonic (peh ton' ik) adj. One who is embarrassed to undress in front of a household pet.

phonesia (fo nee' zhuh) n. The affliction of dialling a phone number and forgetting whom you were calling just as they answer.

pupkus (pup' kus) n. The moist residue left on a window after a dog presses its nose to it.

telecrastination (tel e kras tin ay' shun) n. The act of always letting the phone ring at least twice before you pick it up, even when you're only six inches away.

Now that you've got the pattern, maybe someone out there can translate the Afrikaans Maak as jy loop, maar loop nie.

Oy vey!