Words of Europe

Umberto Eco once said in a now famous sentence that “the language of Europe is translation”. He is probably right, as Europeans may need to go past their linguistic differences so as to share common experiences. At the same time, words in every language express much more than the same generic ideas. Many words are just untranslatable and express a part of a specific culture and history. Getting to know other words in other languages is a way to improve one’s perception of the world. This section thus tries to provide an insight into the rich European linguistic patrimony. Let’s play on words!

European Surnames

You’re looking for a friend called ‘Pierre Martin’ in France ? Hard cheese, he’s going to be tough to find. Don’t even try to type ‘Rossi’ in an Italian search engine! Meanwhile, in Germany, ‘Müller’ is so frequent that you may end up… in a supermarket!

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European LOL

Apart from “haha” or “lol” in English, have you ever wondered how European languages indicate laughter on social media? Have you ever seen a Finn writing *reps* online, a German laughing with *grins* or an Estonian typing “irw”?

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European Willies

The ‘old boy‘, the ‘longfellow‘, the ‘bratwurst‘, the ‘pink oboe‘, the ‘trouser snake‘, the ‘love whistle‘… We often reward lifelong friends with a nickname… and Europeans do not lack creativity when it comes to referring to their manhood.

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European Simon Says

Don’t pretend you forgot “Simon says…” Well, you will now be able to play the game in all European languages, as it appears that Simon has a couple of other friends throughout Europe who are famous for giving commands in their own language.

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European Placeholders

Sometimes you just can’t cotton-pickin’ remember what something’s called. Sometimes it’s a lot of times. And sometimes you just don’t know the proper name of an object. What do you do in these moments? You use a placeholder of course!

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European Swear Words

“Fuck!” says the Brit, “Putain!” answers the French, “Cazzo!” replies the Italian, “Kurwa!” says the Pole… Europeans have their own words to express anger, irritation, contempt, or disappointment, but they don’t use the same swear metaphors.

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European Toasts

Cheers, Santé, Prost, Saúde, Skål, Kippis, Na zdravje or Egészségedre – those little words hide the most interesting tales. And they might just be the first words a foreigner learns when arriving in another European country…

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European Little Johnny jokes

Jaimito in Spain, Toto in France, Pikku-Kalle in Finland, Jantje in the Netherlands, Oin-Oin in Switzerland and Pierino in Italy… In almost every single European country, there is an equivalent for the Little Johnny jokes.

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European Longest Words

‘Anticonstitutionnellement’, ‘Antidisestablishmentarianism’, ‘Menneskerettighetsorganisasjonene’ Did you know that a German 79-letters word is the European longest word? Or that the Irish Gaelic one is the shortest (longest) word in Europe?

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European Monopoly Streets

“Mayfair”, “Rue de la Paix”, “ Schloßallee”. Every European knows the name of the most expensive lot on its Monopoly board. But did you know that in Italy and Germany the street names are fictive?

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European Untranslatable Words

Have you ever experienced saudade in Sintra? Or German Schadenfreude? Was it better or worse than the hygge you felt in Denmark? Untranslatable words are actually the essence of European diversity…

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