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Lost in translation and other losses

Lost in Translation

Due to the incredibly complex nature of every language, word-for-word translation is often extremely difficult if not impossible.

It is more accurate when the translated content is technical in nature. In any other texts, e.g. prose, poetry or regular speech there are phrases, expressions or concepts that are specific for a given language and culture and they do not exist in other languages. Therefore, sometimes when we are translating, part of the meaning gets lost in the process when the target language simply does not have the match. The best translators will rephrase or use clever descriptions to ‘patch the holes’ or the equivalent which has the closest meaning, but still never the same as the original. What might be a very powerful or well written work in its native language, loses its flow, literal power or beauty when translated. It may happen when something is translated too literally, not idiomatically enough, and then the meaning that the original culture and language gave to it is not contained in the translation. When this happens, the original message can be said to have been lost in translation.

What does a dictionary say about the expression?

Lost in translation – of a word or words, having lost or lacking the full subtlety of meaning or significance when translated from the original language to another, especially when done literally. (Usually formulated as “be/get lost in translation.”)

Online translation tools are pretty amazing, but a lot gets lost in translation this way.

In today’s article we present more idiomatic expressions that might be lost in translation. They all include the verb lose or noun loss.

lose your rag / lose (one’s) rag

(slang) To become extremely upset or angry, usually unexpectedly. Primarily heard in the UK and Australia.

I’d had such a rough day at work that I lost my rag when my brother started teasing me once I got home.

lose your shirt / lose one’s shirt

Lose all your possessions, especially as the result of unwise financial transactions. (Informal)

This is my last chance – I’ll lose my shirt if this business venture fails.

lose your touch / lose one’s touch

If you lose your touch, you become less skillful at doing something, that you used to be good at.

Despite thirteen years in the job, she has not lost her touch.

lose your way / lose one’s way

1. Become lost:

We lost our way in the dark.

2. Forget or move away from the purpose or reason for something:

I feel that the project has lost its way.

lose / waste no time (in doing something)

Do something quickly and without delay.

As soon as she arrived back home, she lost no time in visiting all her old friends.

losing battle (to fight)

A failing or hopeless effort; a situation or activity that is ultimately futile or cannot be won. Most often used in the phrase “fight a losing battle”.

I’d give up trying to get your brother to agree to this deal if I were you, it looks like a losing battle at this point.

losing streak

A consecutive series of defeats, losses, or instances of ill fortune. (*Typically: be on ~; have ~; continue one’s ~.)

The team was on a losing streak that started nearly three years ago.

loss of face

The state or circumstance of having lost the respect of other people, as due to having done something improper or unacceptable.

After my terrible loss of face in front of the in-laws, I knew I couldn’t return to their home for the foreseeable future.

lost and found

A specific receptacle, area, or desk maintained in some public venue or facility in which lost items that are found by someone are kept until they are reclaimed by their owners. Sometimes hyphenated (lost-and-found)

I’ll go back to the mall tomorrow and check the lost and found for my glasses.

lost-and-found badge

n. a military identification tag; a military dog tag.

My father still keeps his lost-and-found badge from the Korean War.

lost and gone forever

Lost forever; having no chance of ever being recovered.

Nearly $50,000 of our savings, lost and gone forever because you couldn’t stay away from that damned casino!

lost cause

Something that has no or a very low chance of succeeding or turning out well.

Trying to keep a clean house with three young children is a lost cause.

lost for words

If you are lost for words or at a loss for words, you are so amazed, shocked or sad that you do not know what to say or how to express your feelings in words.

She looked shocked and was, for a moment, lost for words.

lost in the mists of time / lost in the sands of time

Lost or forgotten due to having occurred or existed so far in the past.

For all that we’ve learned about these ancient structures, most of their purpose has been lost in the mists of time.

lost in the sauce

mod. alcohol intoxicated and bewildered.

Sally got lost in the sauce at the party and made quite a spectacle of herself.

lost in the wash / lost in the shuffle

Lost amid a confusing mix of things.

A:”Where’s my homework?”B:”Here, it was lost in the wash on the kitchen table.”

lost in thought

Fully and deeply engrossed in a thought or idea, often to such a degree as to be unaware of or insensitive to the outside world.Concentrating on or pondering over something.

Gwen didn’t hear a word you said; she was lost in thought.

Lost soul

1. A sinner, especially one who has been condemned to hell (as opposed to being granted eternal life in heaven).

I worry that my granddaughter is a lost soul, since she’s stopped going to church.

2. One who is sad, lonely, and/or aimless.

Ever since his wife died, my brother just drifts through the town like a lost soul.

Well, we could go on but the list is endless so just to make a long story short we would like to make a suggestion:

If you are ever in need of a professional translation but you are too afraid to get things lost in translation or make it a lost cause or a losing battle to do it yourself, think of Globtra. You’ll be lost for words with delight when you see the final results. Lose no time using our services. You will never lose your shirt with us – we promise 🙂


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