Di nhau in action.
There's a term in Vietnamese "di nhau" which basically translates as "meeting friends to have a cheap beer at a streetside stall, eat small plates of food and shoot the breeze" but, aside from that clunky and rather lengthy explanation, it has no English equivalent except perhaps "having a barbie" ...
Its elegance succinctness is shared by the Spanish word "Botellon" which translates literally as "big bottle" but also means "a group of young people, drinking takeaway booze outdoors, listening to music".
Kind of like a street-party, it was a phenomenon that arose when uni students and other youngsters decided it was too expensive to drink in bars, so they just set up shop somewhere outside with store-bought grog.
Of course, it also works the other way and I'm told the Vietnamese language has no real equivalent for the English word melancholy, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
Over the years, I've come across a bunch of words that don't seem to have English equivalents. Here's a few that have caught my attention (and sorry I'm not using all the correct letters and accents and symbols).
Sprezzatura (Italian): Which means "making the difficult look easy" but has a far more satisfying explanation, here, if you're interested.
Dechainee (French): Means "unchained" but in slang usage translates to someone saying "going off" or being very excited aka "I'm on fire, tonight".
Deadly (English): I've always been struck by the black humour of indigenous Australian's usage of this word to mean "good". I don't think you find this take anywhere else in the English-speaking world. Thus The Deadlys.
Backpfeifengesicht (German): An absolute pearler. Means a face that needs to punched.
Je suis un chaud lapin (French): Another beauty. Translates as "I am a hot rabbit" but means a bloke who loves having sex aka "a mad rooter".
Ga mong do (Vietnamese): References prostitutes. Means "chicken with painted red fingers".
Koi No Yokan (Japanese): Someone sent me this one. It's not the same as "love at first sight", more a sense that the you and a person you've met are going to fall in love. One of the greatest feelings on earth.
Squirrel (Australian): A special type of beach-side hipster who wears pastel colours, rolled up chinos, sports a beard and often resembles an 1800s bush explorer.
Of course, most of these words will never seep into common usage but it's worth noting how much we owe to foreign terms.
According to The Telegraph, "Brian Whitaker, the Middle East correspondent of The Guardian, once provided a list of common English words and asked which one was the odd man out".
The words were: admiral, alchemy, alcohol, alcove, algebra, algorithm, alkali, almanac, amalgam, aniline, apricot, arsenal, arsenic, artichoke, assassin, aubergine, azure, borax, cable, calibre, camphor, candy, cannabis, carafe, carat, caraway, checkmate, cipher, coffee, cotton, crimson, crocus, cumin, damask, elixir, gauze, gazelle, ghoul, giraffe, guitar, hashish, hazard, jar, jasmine, lacquer, lemon, lilac, lime, lute, magazine, marzipan, massage, mattress, muslin, myrrh, nadir, orange, safari, saffron, samizdat, sash, sequin, serif, sesame, shackle, sherbet, shrub, sofa, spinach, sugar, sultana, syrup, talc, tamarind, tambourine, tariff, tarragon, zenith, zero.
"The answer, of course, is 'samizdat', an untranslatable Russian word meaning 'underground dissident writing'. The rest are all Arabic words that, during the seven centuries of Islamic occupation of Spain, Portugal and parts of southern France, were equally untranslatable," writes The Telegraph.
Rightio, I'm on holidays ... that's it for me, it's di nhau time.
Feel free to share your own untranslatable word.
I'm currently on semi-leave. Moderation will be a little hit and miss because of the time difference.