Thursday, 6 May 2010

Today's missing words

Three commonplace English words that came up in meetings today that don't translate readily into Polish:

Bully [n]. Osoba terroryzująca innych says Getionary. What - like Osama Bin Laden is a bully? Or in the sentence Pani synuś jest osobą terroryzującą innych?

Underwhelming [adj] (as in a politician's wooden manner in public). 'Overwhelming' is przytłacający. So what's 'underwhelming?' podtłaczający?

Fragile [adj]. Getionary gives delikatny (that's 'delicate' in my books), kruchy ('brittle', 'crumbly') and łamliwy ('breakable', 'prone to breakage'). 'Fragile - handle with care' is given as ostrożnie - szkło. Delikatny is the closest - but PWN Oxford gives ten English words for delikatny - but none of them are 'fragile'. 'The fragile peace was shattered by a single violent incident' - delikatny pokój był rozbity przez jedno gwałtowne wydarzenie?

Suggestions please!


adthelad said...

Just a quick stab,

kruchliwy for fragile, znęcacz for bully and mało-przytłaczające for underwhelming. Tricky all the same.

Michael Dembinski said...

Adam - I'm looking for bully [n], not to bully [vb]...

adthelad said...

Er....I did give a noun - znęcacz and not znęczać. I'm told it's not a proper Polish word (osoba znęcająca się), but then again neither were many other words once :).

And sorry for double post - maybe delete one?.

adthelad said...

or maybe that should be znętacz, or (from nęcić) nętacz - like krętacz - (from kręcic). The fact that verbs in Polish don't allow for easy turning into nouns and visa versa is not helpful :(

student SGH said...

Tough questions...

Adam has mastered the art of word-building in Polish

Pani synuś to bandyta / zbir / mały terrorysta / łobuz Even 'bully' as a verb is not that easy to translate, it's somewhere between znęcać się, dręczyć, dokuczać, or somewhere around.

underwhelming = niewzruszający?

'fragile' for me combines 'brittle' and 'fragile', delikatny has a host of meanings in Polish and fragile is surely one of them.

delikatny pokój był rozbity przez jedno gwałtowne wydarzenie?
1. The sentence above is not the best example of decent Polish
2. I have no idea how to correct it. I understand the English sentence, but like in many other cases translating it deftly in Polish is beyond my capacity. I feel much better when I translate into English. I find it easier to find correct words, though the syntax is still a curse...

jan said...

I'd translate "bully" as chuligan. There's even a verb - chuliganić.
The sentence is easy to correct if it is transformed to active voice (Polish doesn't like passive voice) or if a lexical error is corrected ("został rozbity" instead of "był rozbity". Like this: jedno nagłe wydarzenie sprawiło, że kruchy pokój załamał się or "kruchy pokój został zburzony jednym nagłym wydarzeniem".

Translation is never about words, It is about sentences ans sets of sentences.

Anonymous said...

How would you translate the word "emergency" into Polish?

adthelad said...

pastwiciel, from pastwić, could be a neologism for bully. Maybe more accurate than using znęcać.

Łamliwa zawartość could be used for a package but wątły is perhaps better for fragile peace. Tricky, tricky.

studentSGH - I'm suspicious compliments :) but thanks all the same

Michael Dembinski said...

Anon - an excellent question: awaria is nearer the word 'breakdown' on a spectrum with 'breakdown' on one end and 'emergency' at the other.

Getionary gives nagły wypadek and krytyczna sytuacja which of course are 'sudden accident' and 'critical situation' respectively.

As Jan so wisely says - translation is about words in context.