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Top 10 Useful Words For Which English Has No Equivalent

John Rentoul

desenrascanço Top 10 Useful Words For Which English Has No EquivalentThe latest Top 10 is in The Independent on Sunday today.

A few contributions were too late for me to include. Judy Keiner sent me her top 10:

Chutzpah; Machismo/macho; Schadenfreude; Apparatchik; Nomenklatura; Jihad/ jihadi; Mañana; Ummah; Schmaltz(y); Omerta.

Adam Standring wrote:

When people ask for untranslatable words in Portuguese, ’saudade’ is nearly always mentioned first. This describes a nostalgic longing which is allegedly evident in the Portuguese psyche.

A more appropriate and useful word (for the Portguese and others) is ‘desenrascanço’ which means to get out of a spot of trouble at the last minute. Particularly apt for the lack of forward planning that goes on here.

The picture above is the first that comes up when you put desenrascanço into Google Images.

And Vivian Brumpton sent me two more useful borrowings from German:

Übermorgen: day after tomorrow; vorgestern: day before yesterday.

Finally, Kieran writes, about prozvonit:

I have always used the phrase ‘drop calling’ to describe this exact scenario. I am not the only one; most people here would know what I meant if I said it, maybe it’s just a Northern Ireland thing.

Thanks to all. Let me have your suggestions for the Top 10 Most Over-Rated Sixties Bands, forthcoming, and for future Top 10s.

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  • Pacificweather

    No English equivalent? Really?

    Chutzpah = audacity,  machismo = masculinity,   Schadenfreude = epicaricacy (but gloating will do),  apparatchik = functionary (or better) hack, nomenklatura = bureaucrat, jihad = compete (strive together), manñana = later (modern usage),  ummah = community, schmaltz = cheesy,  omertà = Rule (of St Benedict), 

    OK, so I jihaded over omertà and jihad is also struggle (noun) as in “the struggle is my life”. I had never heard of ummah before so it’s not a word we need in English. You are unlikely to say he is a schadenfreude b’stard but you may well say he is a gloating b’stard. We would not say he has machismo, we would say he is a prick (or worse). More people would use the phrase “cheek of the devil” than chutzpah as it is more expressive. I have heard cheesy more often than schmaltzy recently. Your list is 1980s American. Face it, John, you are living in the inglorious past.

  • Newsbot9

    Chutzpah is a far, far more complex concept than that.

  • Pacificweather

    Feel free to enlighten me.


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