When you’re providing marketing translations, it’s important to use the right words. You can make or break a company’s marketing campaign depending on the words you use. Although some English words are beautiful, like “mellifluous,” “serendipity” and “iridescent,” some of them can really hurt the ears, such as “regurgitate,” “pugilist” and “cacophony.” The way a word sounds can have an unpleasant impact on the mind of the consumer and they can start associating that product with a disagreeable sensation. No matter what language you’re translating from, it’s a good idea to use corresponding English words that sound good to the ears and have pleasant associations. Here is a short list of words that we, as a translation company, try to avoid:
- Mooch: Nobody wants to be a mooch, partly because the word itself sounds unpleasant and partly because it means something unpleasant too. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to mooch is “to ask for and get things from other people without paying for them or doing anything for them.” Each one of us has at least one person in their life who tends to mooch things but we can’t bring ourselves to tell them no, mostly out of politeness and because we don’t want to make a scene. The interesting thing about this word is that it comes from the French word “muchier” which means “to hide” or “to lurk.” In general, French words which make their way over into the English language have a soft sound, since French avoids the hard “t”s and “d”s which are found in English as well as German. Speaking French is like skimming the surface of consonants rather than diving deep into them. In general, the French “ch” is pronounced as the English “sh” which gives it a hushed, pliable sound. The case of “mooch” is a different one because the “ch” is pronounced “ch” and not “sh” as it would be in French. So it has a harder sound.
- Regurgitate: This word comes from the Latin word “regurgitatus.” A “gurgit” is a whirlpool, flood or stream. When you regurgitate something, you’re bringing it back up the throat rather violently, as though it’s being carried up by a flood or stream. Some birds eat food, digest it partially and then bring it up to feed their young ones who may not have the digestive systems necessary to eat those items from the get go. But “regurgitate” can also be used in a negative way, such as when someone regurgitates the contents of a lecture they’ve heard without understanding any of it.
- Cacophony: A cacophony refers to a din in which no one voice or sound can be heard individually. Everything gets mixed up together. Imagine throwing together all the ingredients of your refrigerator and eating the results. A cacophony is to the ears what that mixture of food would be to your taste buds. The word comes from the Greek words “kakos” which means bad and “phōnē” which means voice or sound. The latter word is also the root for words like “telephone,” “microphone” etc. Not only does “cacophony” mean something unpleasant to the ear, it’s also a word which sounds unpleasant in and of itself.
- Grotesque: The word “grotesque” has a number of hard consonant sounds (“g,” “t,” and “q”). Plus, it refers to something absurd, bizarre or fantastic. The root word here is “grotto” which means “cave” in Italian. In the 1560s, certain old Roman paintings were found in underground rooms and corridors of an unfinished palace built around 64 A.D. These rooms and corridors had the appearance of caves, hence the term “grotesque.” Plus, the paintings found there were strange combinations of the human, animal and plant kingdom. If you’ve ever read The Chronicles of Narnia and come across fauns, centaurs and other fantastic creatures, then you understand the strange fascination that the grotesque holds for us.
- Slaughter: Unlike many of the above terms, we use the word “slaughter” pretty regularly in our everyday life. Animals are slaughtered for food. Any thriller will refer to the slaughter of human beings by murderers or psychopaths. Plus, you have that brilliant book by Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse Five. The word slaughter has such a deep sound that it almost seems to imply taking pleasure in the process of slaughtering someone. The word comes from the Old Norse “slātra” which also means the same thing. It’s connected to the Old English term “slēan” which means “to slay.”
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