My apologies for the long absence. Things have been fairly crazy with the lead up to the ‘silly season’ and I have admittedly been listening to more Christmas music than is probably healthy. However, this time only comes once a year, so I hope it’s permissible.
I thought it would be a nice idea to wish you all a belated but very Merry Christmas in a few different languages. Although there are a lot of countries and cultures that don’t celebrate the birth of Christ, a lot of them still have a celebration at this time of year, or a greeting to encapsulate the goodwill of the season. From a quick glance at the internet, though, it seems like a lot of the lists are directly copied from one another, without any sort of individual research for confirmation of the translations. So, I will just use a few that I know from personal or anecdotal experience to be fairly accurate.
So, from all of us at LT, we hope you had a very Happy Christmas (UK), 圣诞快乐 Shèng dàn kuài lè (Mandarin Chinese), Joyeux Noël (French), Feliz Navidad (Spanish), Feliz Natal (Portuguese), and the wonderful transliterations Meri Kirihimete (NZ Maori), Mele Kalikimaka (Hawaiian), and Merii Kurisumasu (Japanese).
Happy New Year, and all the best for 2009!
I’m not 100% sure of the validity of their methods, but The Global Language Monitor has released the top words and phrases of 2008.
Somewhat predictably, even in world terms, American political buzzwords and phrases are pretty high up there. Apparently, if you add up all the Obama-related words (Obamamania, Obamanomics, etc.), they were used more often than top-spot word change and number two bailout.
Probably thanks to the internet and the general catchiness of it, Obama’s catchphrase “Yes we can” came in third place for phrases, following the runner-up “global warming”. Reading this article, however, was the first time I’d even seen the (apparently) number one phrase of the year, “financial tsunami”. Doesn’t that sound more like a tidal wave of money? A destructive wall of money? Or is it talking about liquidation? I’ve never understood high finance.
Most languages have titles, honorifics, and familiar names for different family members. They mostly depend on gender and relationship to the speaker. The level of formality is often related to the difference in generations. If I am speaking to an elderly aunt, for example, I may give her her title (e.g. Aunt Agatha), but will usually only ever call my cousins by their first names.
I was recently sent a link to a full list of Chinese family titles (formal and informal; in Cantonese, Mandarin, and Taiwanese), and was frankly a bit intimidated (click the picture below to see the full list).
Most Chinese people don’t address their family members by name, but rather their title (younger sister, maternal grandmother, etc). To be perfectly honest, I’m glad I don’t have many relatives in China. I’d be terrified that I’d address my paternal grandfather’s older brother’s wife by entirely the wrong name.
I stumbled upon an excerpt from a paper describing the taxation of surnames in Iceland in an effort to prevent people from assuming family names (surnames).
The surname as many of us know it, a family name that is passed on through generations (usually through the male line), is uncommon in Iceland. About 15% of people there have one. The rest bear a first name, followed by a second name which indicates whose son or daughter they are. Telephone books list citizens in order of given name, not surname, which is an oddity the locals are proud of.
In an unsuccessful attempt to stop the trend of adopting surnames, officials in 1881 passed a law that required people to receive royal permission, pay a flat fee, and then an annual fee per syllable of their chosen last name.
I wonder if the very rich, showy types would purposefully choose multisyllabic names, just to prove that they could afford them?