Language itself is a curious thing. Often at times, translation to English is not always exact or literal simply because there are some words which exist in other languages that do not exist in English. When one needs to translate, they have to give the meaning of the word rather than giving another word with the exact meaning. However, the reverse is also the case. There are words which ONLY exist in the English Language. Here are some of such words.
MEANING: Overly complex or encrypted in a way that results in nonsense or something incoherent.
This word made its debut into the English Language in the year 1944. Senator Maury Maverick of Texas was ranting and canvassing against overly complex words which seemingly attempted to imitate the gobbling of a turkey. He spoke especially of the words ‘implementation’ and ‘activation’. According to his memo, he would sanction the shooting of anyone using these words. And while he was joking (we hope), the word was not playing around and decided to stick around.
On another different but related note, Maverick’s grandfather Maury Samuel is responsible for another English word. He thought up a new way to carry out his cattle branding practices- he simply did not do them. And thus a word meaning ‘non-conformist’ or ‘rebel’ was created. Anyone who refused the norms and preferred to forge his own path was known as a ‘Maverick’.
MEANING: An unsought, unexpected, and unforeseen, but also fortunate happening.
Since English words are mostly coined from other languages, finding such words which have no equivalent can be a trial. Such a word would have had to be created from nothing which is precisely how serendipity was discovered. It was coined from the country Sri Lanka’s previous English-given name: Sirendip. Sirendip is a distorted form of a Sanskrit word that means ‘Dwelling Place of Lion’s Island’. The story ‘The Three Princes of Serendip’ which was published in 1557 tell the story of three young princes who get out of scuffles and troubles through unsought, unexpected, and unforeseen, but also fortunate happenings. The word gained popularity and so many years later, it was knighted with the title ‘Official English Word.’
MEANING: Overdramatic, excessively cliché or extremely fake.
The word cheesy has no single word that can describe it. Similarly, it is a one-of-a-kind word with no other equivalent in other languages. Other languages have words for the literal and derived meaning of cheesy- covered in cheese, but no other language as a suitable word that means cheesy in the ‘excessively cliché sense. A German word ‘Kitsch’ that means ‘unrefined artwork’ is perhaps the closest you will find. However, it is not suitable enough. While you can have a ‘kitschy movie’ you cannot have a ‘big kitschy smile’.
MEANING: Unsolicited bulk electronic messages.
We ourselves as well as virtually every email owner experience spam. And just as the other meaning of the word is known as ‘fake meat’ spam messages are’ fake emails’. The actual direction which the word spam mail is derived from is quite amusing. It comes from the notion that spam email piles up just as spam meat would in a restaurant that specializes in spam. Very wrapped, isn’t it?
MEANING: To bring one or both of one’s palms to the face. This gesture has various interpretations.
The gesture facepalming had likely been around for a long time if the Cain and Abel statue by Henri Vidal is anything to go by. This word however, was one to the first to be birthed online. We can trace it back to 1996 in a listserv group recording online: “Christie facepalmed. ‘Well her hair was red this morning, right? It’s blonde now. You figure it out.” Christie here was showing exasperation with her gesture. Twenty years later in 2017, it was made an official word by the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
MEANING: To excessively customize something especially a vehicle.
The word pimp also refers to someone who recruits sex workers and obtains customers for them. That word was probably derived from the middle age French word ‘pimpant’. However, the English language is the only language to adapt the word to mean (thanks to Xzibit’s Pimp My Ride Show) to make something flashy through customization.
MEANING: Someone from the hills who lacks refinement and sophistication.
It is understandable that you may not get a suitable equivalent word that means hillbilly in another language simply because the word itself speaks about a particular English-speaking location.
The Scottish immigrants who settled in that area around the year 1700 originated the rollicking fiddle of the Appalachian bluegrass. They sang a lot of songs praising and referencing William of Orange. William of Orange had won the Battle of Boyne and had defeated James the second. They were promptly named ‘Billy Boys’. The American adaptation simply remakes it and adds the location the migrated to giving them the name ‘Hillbilly’.
MEANING: Any situation in which the value of one thing is decreased in other for another to be increased.
The word ‘trade’ has been paired with many prepositions over time each giving its own meaning. Words such as trade-up and trade down are examples of this. However, the word trade-off carries a hard-to-translate concept. It has been likened to an exchange or a compromise but those words don’t really convey its actual meaning. The word suggests that the two items in question have their own advantages and disadvantages.