Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Of Pochemuchkas and Shlimazls

The other day I ran across an article that reported the results of a survey of 1000 professional interpreters and translators, asking them their opinions of the world's most difficult-to-translate words. I won't bore you with the entire top ten, but I thought that two of them were worth sharing.

In Russian, a pochemuchka is "a person who asks lots of questions." It derives from the word pochemu, which means why ... hence, a pochemuchka is literally a "why-person." Those of you who are parents and grandparents will probably enjoy knowing that there's a specific word for the toddler who asks why? a million times per day.

The elegant word shlimazl is actually one I've heard before - it's a Yiddish word that refers to a person who is chronically unlucky ... a born loser. It's similar to another wonderful Yiddish word - shlemiel - which indicates a person who is an unlucky bungler or a chump. It's been said that the shlemiel is a person who always spills his soup, while the shlimazl is the person he spills it on.

No special message today ... just sharing a couple of really clever words that you can throw into your discourse to look erudite. Or sound like a shlemiel. Whatever.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



Grand Crapaud said...

The first word is one we should have an English equivalent to.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

There should be an opposite to pochemuchka -- one who doesn't ask questions when they ought to be asked.

Big Sky Heidi said...

But why are there not more words like that?

Bilbo said...

Angel - here's your chance: what would be a good word for that person? Leave a comment or e-mail me and let me know your suggestion.

Heidi - because!

Mike said...

Discourse, that's a NASCAR word isn't it?

Juliette said...

I like the shlimazel concept.

Bilbo said...

Hello, Juliette! You seem to be a first-time visitor ... hope to see you back here again more often!