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!


Mini -UntranslatablesEuropean Untranslatable Words

 The act of speaking is a cultural expression par excellence. A language concentrates all the cultural representations of a community about, for instance, interpersonal relations, feelings, behaviors, world perceptions…. They embody historical experiences and consequently, can’t be shared in the very same way by others. In Europe, untranslatability shouldn’t be a barrier to the will of living together, but a way to enhance our common heritage with many other words completing our vocabulary. Above is this first list ever published of European untranslatable words. You’ll see, some words are very amusing and express emotions that we all experienced once […]

European Swear Words

Mini - European Swear Words Goddammit! We all knew that Europeans swear like troopers but we may have forgotten how creative they can be. Captain Haddock had better watch out : he has serious competitors. “Fuck!” say the Brit, “Putain!” answer the French, “Cazzo!” reply the Italian, “Kurwa!” say the Pole… All Europeans have their own words to express anger, irritation, contempt, or disappointment, but they don’t use the same swear images. A whole set of countries use the word “hell” or “satan” to swear : it is not really rude, and almost nice if you look carefully ! Others swear […]

European Longest Words

Did you know that Turkey with a 71-letters word was the European longest word and that the Irish Gaelic one was the shortest sample of our list? More surprisingly and for some curious reasons, it is interesting to notice that the longest word in some European countries is directly linked to their national backgrounds. French men launched a revolution to get a constitution, they invented the word ‘Anticonstitu- tionnellement’, English men separated their Church from the Vatican, and they and they get ‘Antidisestablishment- arianism’, Norwegianpeople invented the Peace Nobel Price, they have ‘Menneskerettighetsorganisasjonene’ […]

European Placeholders

MINI - 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! Europeans are particularly inventive in this respect and have plenty of amazing and sometimes suprising words. Would you guess who says “Oojamaflip” and “Thingamabob“? Which country replace unkown names by “Duppeditt” and “Snurrepipperi“? Who the hell invented “Riistapuu“? Or what’s wrong with “Hogyhívják“? EuropeIsNotDead already investigated what are […]

European Lol

mini-european-lol The ability to laugh is one of those specific human features that distinguishes man from animal. According to some studies, we physically laugh 17 times a day on average – something that our friendly pets can’t challenge. But we also laugh several times a day on the Internet. We all know that you can express your amusement online by merely typing “haha” or “lol” in English, but have you ever wondered how other European languages indicate laughter in chats, text messaging and on social media? Have you ever encountered a Finn writing *reps* online, a German laughing with *grins* or an Estonian typing “irw”? If you want to make acquaintance with your European neighbors and build strong relationships, you might […]

European Surnames

mini-european-family-namesFamily names are part of the history of each nation. They contribute to the social contract which binds citizens together in a society. So when we look carefully at the most common surnames in Europe, we approach identities in how they appear the most real and pure. Did you know that the most prevalent family name is the Spanish one ‘Garcia’? Did you notice that Polish, Czech and Slovenes shared the same most prevalent last name, meaning ‘new man’. And last, did you observe that in some Balkan countries, the most common surnames designate actually the neighbor’s nationality? The list bellow is a compilation of the most frequent surnames for each […]

European Simon Says

Mini - European Simon says Let’s be honest, we all remember this game from our childhood memories… This was before video games and long before smart phones and social media. Don’t pretend you forgot “Simon says…”: this game sweetened your Wednesday or Saturday afternoons when you didn’t know what to do with your friends. You remember: one player took the role of “Simon” and issued instructions to the other players, which had only to be followed if it was prefaced with the phrase “Simon says”? Don’t you recall being eliminated from the game because you either followed instructions that were not immediately preceded […]

European Willies

Mini - European Willies The ‘old boy‘, the ‘longfellow‘, the ‘bratwurst‘, the ‘pink oboe‘, the ‘trouser snake‘, the ‘love whistle‘… Europeans do not lack creativity when it comes to referring to their manhood. Part of the everyday language, these words are – so to speak  – on everyone’s lips. For many Europeans, though, a simple expression is not enough to thank their partner in glory – they want to reward their essential accessory to all kinds of exploits, this source of pride (and occasionally prejudice), by granting it a personality of its own. After all, we often reward lifelong friends with a nickname – so why not a dickname? There is, after all, no need to be all stiff about it. […]

European Little Johnny

Mini - European Little Johnny With one official language for each 20 million inhabitants and 225 secondary languages, Europe may sometimes realize the ancient myth of Babel. In the fierce debate over a common language for Europe, Umberto Eco once said in a famous sentence that the language of Europe was actually translation. This is in particular the case for this funny list, which tries to collect all the translation, origin and explanation of the Little Johnny jokes in every European countries. This is indeed amazing to notice that, in almost every single European country, there is an equivalent for those childish jokes. This list is full of surprises […]

European Toasts

mini-european-toasts Let’s have a European drink together! It’s often said the toast is deeply rooted in Western culture – and particularly so in Europe, where it has been part of our common heritage for centuries. The first toasts between European kings in the Middle Ages sealed post-war peace and solidarity; and Europe’s most important events have been celebrated with toasts full of joy and happiness. So it’s only appropriate that this list pay tribute to this secular European tradition. Cheers, Santé, Prost, Skål – those little words hide the most interesting tales.  […]

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