Lost in Translation

Heim is German for home.

Heimat is the powerfully nativist collectivity of homes. There is no English equivalent.

The German adjective heimlich means secretive.

The English adjective homely [merely] means unbeautiful.

The German adjective unheimlich means scary, uncanny – the opposite of feeling safely at home.

The English adjective unhomely does not exist.

I give up.


5 responses to “Lost in Translation

  1. Josef Eisinger

    It is wonderful how languages retain their individual heritage and are not one-to-one equivalents of another language.

  2. Michael Gundy

    The Swahili noun for airport translates as “the playing field for birds”.

  3. While there may be no English equivalent to Heimat, there is an emotional appeal in “homeland” … thus when the US government wanted to show its fierce resolve against terrorism, it created the Department of Homeland Security, not National Security (there was already a body with that name…) I don’t think anything in the US governmental system used the term “homeland” before it was pressed into service for the Big Brother department.

    A homebody has other virtues, or vices – it’s not necessary pejorative, but not necessarily positive either.

  4. mike holliday

    Not sure what a nativist collection of homes is, but would it be a street, enclave, neighbourhood, hamlet, suburb, or village?
    I assume heimlich derives from keeping something in the home. Might an English speaker say keep it private?
    Unhomely and unbeautiful are problematic. Not homely and not beautiful would be more accurate.
    Not homely could be harsh, cold or unwelcoming and while not beautiful means just that, it would be wrong to take the next step and say ugly.
    Homely is comfortable, welcoming, relaxing. It obviously is not exotic, but it would be a mistake to take that as step further and say not beautiful.
    Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.
    Don’t give up.

  5. Eric, your readers have ingeniously found many more meanings for “home” and related words. Heimlich manoeuvres?