Saturday, October 1, 2011

Splitting Hairs – What’s the difference?

What is better, one size fits all or exact sizes?  The same issue applies to languages.  There are terms that in one language one word fits all usages while in another, each specific context requires a completely different word.
In English for example, business offer special or volume discounts, i.e. they lower the price for a special product or if you buy more than a certain amount.  By contrast, in French, there is a rabais, an exceptional discount because of the condition of a good, a remise, a regular discount applied all the time, and a ristourne, a discount awarded periodically for various reasons.  These distinctions save words, but can definitely confuse a non-native.
Speaking of clothes, Hebrew is quite particular on how you put them on.  You lovesh ( לובש) a garment, noel (נועל) a shoe, gorev (גורב) a sock, hoger (חוגר) a belt, onev (עונב) a tie, oteh (עוטה) gloves, hovesh (חובש) a hat, markiv (מרכיב) glasses, and oned (עונד) jewelry.  The only help in remembering all that is the verb generally sounds like the article of clothing.
Getting married is supposedly about saying I do.  Well, in Russian, it appears  that they are very particular about not having same sex marriages.  A Russian man женится (jenitcya), meaning he marries a woman, while a Russian women is замужна (zamujna), meaning marries a man.  There is no ambiguity there.
I would be interested in hearing about other examples of such branching off of vocabulary in any language.

1 comment:

  1. Russian woman "выходит замуж", which literally means "exits [leaves home] towards her husband"