I am grateful to the BBC for drawing my attention to some entertaining language facts. And before you ask, yes, the word ‘squirrel’ does feature in one of them. But more of that later.
In their ‘Language’ section, on a page that must be old or considered unimportant because it’s archived and no longer updated, you can find a section called ‘weird words’, where people could send in their own favourite examples of unusual, difficult or just embarrassing (because they had got them wrong) words, from a multiplicity of languages. And as a company that is trying to promote the hashtag #welovelanguage, this is just great for us and for all those who, whilst not academic/professional linguists, are translators, interpreters or just love words. So, without further ado, here are a few of my favourites from across the world or, specifically in this instance, Germany.
For a start, try “Streichholzschächtelchen”. Despite its impressive size, it’s a diminutive. What’s worse, is that it’s a diminutive of “Streichholzschachtel”, which itself isn’t a particularly big thing, being a matchbox.
Or if you think that’s not a big enough word, how about “Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzungsüberschreitung”, which (and I’ve checked) means ‘to exceed the speed limit’.
Some wit posted a retaliatory message in the ‘German’ section, telling us that for native German speakers one of the hardest English phrases to say is “Wombles of Wimbledon”. Well, yes. Always assuming the Germans have heard of the Wombles, it’s not likely to come up in conversation as often as ‘matchbox’.
Finally, to return to our friend the squirrel, this was the first item I found under the ‘weird words’ section. Specifically, the comment was that this word is one of the hardest to say in a “multitude of languages”. Unfortunately, only two languages were given as examples, but to be fair, when you learn that ‘squirrel’ is Eichörnchen in German, Eekhoorn in Dutch, you see the point that was being made. It’s all enough to drive you nuts…..
David Orr, Director, Global Connects
If you’d like to see a few more of these, here’s the link!