English Words with No Equivalents

You’ve seen the lists of words with no English equivalents and you’ve seen really, truly the utmost very best that English has to offer, but have you ever wondered what words are particular to English? I’m talking about words that have no equivalents in other languages.

Well, friends, wonder no longer. I have compiled a list for you. Now you can marvel at the intricacies and quirks of the English language. What does it tell about English speakers and their culture that they had to invent words for these strange things? Your guess is as good as mine. On to the list!

1. a, the, in, on, for, to, from – These simple words have no equivalents in Finnish. The poor Finns are stuck putting suffixes on words. It’s a shame really. How do they manage?

2. never – Never mind prepositions and determiners, the helpless Finns are also stuck without a word for never. The closest they have is ei ikinä, which roughly translates to “not ever.”

3. yesterday, today, tomorrow – While we’re up in the Nordic countries, can you believe that Danish and Swedish have no word for yesterday, today, or tomorrow. That’s right. Instead their stuck with i går, i dag, i morgen. Time must move so slow for them!

4. please – Ever wonder why French people are so rude? It’s because it takes them three times as many words (s’il vous plaît) to say please than it does for us. Spanish speakers are in the middle with two – por favor.

5. fuhgeddaboudit – can you believe that Italian doesn’t have a word for fuhgeddaboudit? I thought it was an Italian word! I thought it was passed down through generations of guidos and paisans. Who knew? I guess it’s Jewish.

This is just a sampling of words that English has been blessed with. When faced with such intricate and novel ideas as the ones expressed by the words in this list, other languages are at a loss.

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Answering the Critics of the President’s Finnish Society

Inspired by the success and resolve of the Queen’s English Society, I created the President’s Finnish Society, or Presidentin Suomenkielen Mielisairaala. Our intention is to improve the standards of Finnish, to encourage people to know more about the wonderful Finnish language, to use it more effectively and to enjoy it more, to rid Standard Finnish of vulgar slang and foreign words. Or, as the Finns would say, “sinun seura on paska.” Just like the QES, the PFS awards an annual prize for excellent Finnish usage – the Jussi Sekopää award. Last year’s winner, for the eighth time in a row, was Matti Nykänen.

The PFS has been around for twelve years and we are still going strong. But I feel it is time to answer some of our detractors. I do not want to, but it seems they just won’t go away. On the contrary, it seems they might be multiplying. This will not do.

The first criticism to address is that I am not qualified to monitor the progress of the Finnish language. My opponents will say that just because I’m neither a native Finn nor a fluent Finnish speaker, I should therefore not “comment on any alterations to the language that are felt to be not in keeping with clarity and elegance in written or spoken” Finnish, as the QES does for English. I say that I am the proud father of not one, but two native Finnish speakers. So you could call me not just fluent, but proto-fluent.

That’s pretty much the only charge that has been leveled against me. Well, some like to point out that there is already an organization that polices the Finnish language. But those fools just don’t realize that two is better than one. Duh!

Read all about it
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[Updated] Rise Up! Free-form Grammar to Break Your Language Bonds

Too long have we been held in the chains of grammar. Too long have our oppressors, the so-called language mavens, told us what we can and cannot say! Too long!

This is the dawning of a new era, where we will no longer be slaves to our grammarians and their grammar books. This is the dawning of the Age of Avant Garde Grammar.

Free-form grammar is simple. Take the most hallowed rule of English grammar, the granddaddy of them all – that phrases must impart sensible information – and throw it out! Kill the head and the body will die!

Feel liberated, my fellow grammar slaves, for this is Liberated Grammar. You are slaves no longer!

[UPDATE – August 6, 2020] Hat tip to the Society Formerly Known as the Anti-Queens English Society and to the Proper English Foundation for helping the masses to break free from their grammatical bonds. Apologies and condolences to family and friends of the Queen’s English Society. Their death was inevitable, but it’s always sad to see a cult bite the dust.

[UPDATE – June 18, 2037]
Took while, but pre-New World Order grammar really caught, huh? People slave no government world mozzarella sticks. And hockey babies chair bring fellow scholars.

[UPDATE – June 23, 2068]
Lay dying pre-Alien Overlords grammar land law used start, oui? Time was no one mavens remember world chaos inner tube. Respect.

Translate "Suboptimal Productivity Drivers" and Win a Dictionary

Stan Carey of Sentence First and Macmillan Dictionary Blog fame has set up a challenge at the Macmillan Dictionary Blog. He has written a letter in “business-speak” and tasked readers to translate it. One winner will receive a Macmillan Dictionary of their choice. Below is the opening of the letter. Follow this link to read the rest and participate.

Dear employee,

It has come to our attention that productivity drivers are suboptimal, which clearly impacts performance deliverables. We have touched base with HQ and undergone a period of extensive consultation. Actioning this decision-making process requires frontminding streamlined competencies. We anticipate a needs-based harmonisation gap in employee feelings vis-à-vis these necessary outcomes, but we are tasked with maximising the ball-parking of our projected equity outcomes.

My translation of that paragraph is:

Underling,

You have failed yet again, which means the company is failing because of you. The powers that be know of your failings. They have given us the authority to act swiftly and brutally. For the good of the company, you will be granted no mercy.

Go here to see the rest of my translation.

Good luck and happy translating!

Image courtesy of the Macmillan Dictionary Blog.

Robert Burchfield. Teacher. Lexicographer. Original Gangster.

Before Tupac and Biggie. Before Dre and Snoop. Shit, before even Schoolly D and Ice-T, there was Robert Burchfield.

Robert Burchfield was straight gangstar. Robert Burchfield was the Suge Knight of lexicography. No, fuck that, Suge Knight is the Robert Burchfield of rapping. Respect.

Peep this: In 1957, the Oxford English Dictionary was mad out of date. The Oxford University Press needed to update that shit and they needed to do it quick. How could they call themselves a bastion of the English language when their dictionary was so old-school? Shit was whack.

The OUP knew they had to get the freshest gangsta around to edit their OED – the OG Robert Burchfield. They knew players would be hatin’ on him and his editing skillz, but they knew it had to be done. Shit would have been even more whack if they didn’t get RWB, yo.

Pictured: R to the Obert, B to the Urchfield.

Shit, you don’t think RWB knew peeps would be hating on his OED Supplement? Robert Burchfield was realer than real deal Holyfield. You think he didn’t know that shit? He knew – homeboy just didn’t care. He published that shit anywayz. It was his job to tell the world about the English language, not their job to tell him about it. Robert Burchfield took the English language and said, “It’s like and like this and like that and uh.” If punk ass bitches didn’t like it, they could come and get theirs.

And they tried to front too, writing him letters saying they would cap his ass for his edits to the OED. But all them letters were anonymous, surprise surprise, because cowards were scared of the OG Burchfield. Bitch ass death threats from fakers didn’t faze RWB, ya heard. Robert Burchfield kept rolling, slinging his dictionary papers and pimping knowledge like nobody’s bizness.

RWB went to that great editing room in the sky in 2004. But now that y’all know who the original gangsta is, you best show respect.

RIP OG RWB.