Did you know?
1) ‘Mickey Mouse,’ one of our favourite Disney characters, largely has his name translated as a direct derivative – in French he remains ‘Mickey Mouse’, in Spanish he becomes ‘Ratón Mickey’ and even in Norwegian, ’Mikki Mus’. Regardless of your linguistic background, it isn’t hard to see where the root has come from in these examples.
However, in Italian, Mickey loses the defining feature of his name, and becomes ‘Topolino’, literally translated as ‘Baby Mouse’. For those not in the know, ‘topo’ translates to ‘mouse’, whilst the suffix ‘ino’ indicates the quality of being ‘small’, where emphasis is required.
All very cute, right? Not to mention a complete enigma to those of us unlucky enough to not study Italian! Anyway, who says watching Bond films isn’t educational?
2) The German language has a word for ‘an improvement which actually makes things worse’. That word is ‘schlimmbesserung’ and although it is apparently rarely used in everyday life, I can think of a few things that it could describe – Windows 10, anyone?
3) Nicaraguan Sign Language was invented only when a group of deaf children were brought together during the 1970s and 80s in an attempt to unite the deaf children of the country; at the time there was no true deaf community. Although the attempts of teachers to teach them Spanish through lip-reading failed, the children created a whole new version of sign language which they developed grammatically as the years went on – and without assistance. As such, the language is seen as having been ‘spontaneously developed,’ yet it still manages to conform to the rules of spoken languages…
4) Papua New Guinea boasts over 840 individual languages, but it ‘only’ offers English, Papua New Guinean Sign Language, Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu as its official languages. *Eyes widen*.
Unsurprisingly, it is now known as the most linguistically diverse country in the world – a dream for us linguists!
5) On a similar note to our first point, Daffy Duck is otherwise known as ‘El pato Lucas’ in Spanish…sure, ‘pato’translates to ‘duck’…but Lucas? Daffy? Lucas? A resemblance? I think not. Actually, there is a reason, however convoluted it may seem: ‘Daffy’ is itself a synonym for ‘crazy’ or ‘silly’, and in Spanish, these words best translate to ‘loco’. Hence, ‘Lucas’…make of it what you will...