English has More Words than Most?


It’s quite probable that English has more words than most comparable world languages. Yet, sometimes even English doesn’t have quite the right word to express what we’re feeling. Turning to another language can solve the problem.

Who isn’t familiar with the idea of the ‘Zeitgeist’? This wonderful, portmanteau (there’s another one from French) German word comes from Zeit, meaning ‘time’, and Geist, meaning ‘spirit’ or ghost.’ Time ghost? No. It’s that feeling that captures the spirit of a time or a generation. For example, the decadence of the post war 1920s or the austerity of the 2010s

Turning to Spain, there’s a great word that expresses the delightful pleasure of that time spent after a meal. Chatting, chilling and enjoying the company of family and friends, whilst putting the world to rights. It is about prolonging the meal because you’re having a great time that you don’t want to end. What we might call, rather clinically, the digestive period. Sobremesa – which literally means ‘over the table’ – is what the Spanish call it. A lovely word that even sounds relaxing.

France has the brilliant expression ‘Seigneur-terraces’. This refers to those irritating characters who linger longer in coffee shops than they should. We’ve all seen them. They turn up with their laptops, order a single coffee and are still there several hours later without having bought another thing. Perhaps they should learn the art of the sobremesa . . . Failing that, the Swedish word Tretår should definitely be in their vocabulary, if only to keep the poor coffee shop owner solvent. ‘Tår’ means a cup of coffee and ‘patår’ is a refill. ‘Tretar’? That ‘tre’ is a bit of a give away – it’s a second refill, or a ‘threefill’. The Swedes love their coffee.

Thankfully, we at Accutranslate are used to translating the untranslatable. Call us when you next need an accurate document, website or marketing material and we’ll get it right for you.

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