Untranslatable-Header

“Untranslatable” Expressions

If you’ve been travelling long enough, chances are you’ve picked up how to say a few crucial phrases in at least one other language. It comes in handy to know “Dov’è il bagno?”, or “Was kostet das?”, or understand that when someone asks you to turn on the “custard and jelly” in London, they’re not talking about desserts. But there are some phrases which just don’t have an English equivalent – these are some of our favourites. Make sure to use a few next time you’re abroad.

1) Fernweh

This German word is the exact opposite of Heimweh, or the feeling of homesickness. It describes a feeling we are far too familiar with – a strong missing of being far away. Sort of like wanderlust, but amped up by 10. (Wiktionary)

2) Почемучка (Pochemuchka)

Do you like to ask a lot of questions? Are you really inquisitive? Do your questions exhaust people? In Russian, you’d be a Pochemuchka, derived from a book about a very inquisitive child. (Wiktionary)

3) Tartle

Picture it: you’ve met someone cool in another country and want to introduce them to your travelling companion. But, oh no, you’ve forgotten their name! So you hesitate while introducing them. The Scottish verb Tartle describes this situation quite well. (AltaLang)

4) Tingo

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of this one before, but that doesn’t make it any less amusing – and for any Simpsons buffs out there, Homer definitely is guilty of this act. This Pascuense verb describes the act of gradually borrowing all of the possessions in a friend’s house, to eventually own them for yourself. (AltaLang)

5) Falla mellan två stolar

Let’s hope this Swedish expression hasn’t happened to you when planning a trip with friends! Literally, this expression translates to “to fall between two chairs”, but it doesn’t actually concern your balance or physical presence. Rather, it describes when some (often important) task gets forgotten because everyone involved thinks someone else will take care of it. Yikes! (Wiktionary)

6) Les carottes sont cuites

Is it wrong that this French expression just makes us think about dinner? Even though the direct translation is “the carrots are cooked”, there’s unfortunately no real food involved here. This expression is more of a “what’s done is done” variety – the idea being that you can’t go back and undo what has already happened. (Wiktionary)

Do you have a favourite expression from a language other than English? Let us know in the comments!


Ready to test out some of these expressions? Let us help you get travelling.


Written by Deanna Gregorio, Brand Specialist at travelcuts.

Share this post ...Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on Pinterest

2 thoughts on ““Untranslatable” Expressions”

  1. Great post, i love learning new words in other languages.
    For the German one though: the opposite of “Fernweh” would be “Heimweh” :)

    I’m from Germany, and have just recently moved to Canada, I love travelling to other countries – and your website has a lot of interesting posts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>