Other Languages: Better Expressions

Happy New Year. I thought I would start out the year with just a fun topic. So enjoy! And, as you know at Business Writing That Counts! we help business writers say what they mean with our corporate online courses and Train-the-Trainer licensing program. Clear, concise writing is your most effective means to a desired end. Of course, some business writing requires a little pizazz to keep readers engaged. Take sales writing, for instance. We have a few fun expressions in the English language that help turn business writing or simple communication with colleagues into prose. Let's take a closer look at a few of those, along with some fun foreign phrases or words we wish we had at our disposal:


We stole a few from the French. You can't beat the French for fine cuisine. That's why two of our favorite French words/expressions—a la carte and hors d'oeuvres—come directly from the European language. We also can thank the French for bon voyage, literally meaning "have a good trip." But it just sounds more romantic and sincere… Please and thank you. As children grow, we really hammer please and thank into their language skills. The phrases show respect and politeness. But the Scandinavians have no word for please. Despite that, you don't often read about rude Swedes. They just put more effort into it: "May I ask for," as an example. It's more direct and plenty polite. They also use the term "tack for senast" when encountering a friend, which means "thank you for the previous time we saw one another." Using "please" when traveling in Scandinavian countries or writing for customers there seems jarring, so be sure to ask in long form. It shows effort. Same idea, different visual. Everything is relative from one country and language to the next. In Italy, "Every death of a pope" equates to the English "once in a blue moon." When the skies open up and pour heavily, Americans might say, "It's raining cats and dogs." The Lithuanian language brings up a more stinging visual, shall we say. "Lyja kirviais" means "It's raining axes." Warm and fuzzy words. Here are a few foreign phrases we bet you wish you could tap into for product descriptions or to put customers at ease: The Danish word "hygge" literally translates to well-being, creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. "Cwtch," from Welsh, means safe space, and giving someone a hug simply to let them know they are safe. The Icelandic language has a lovelier way to describe our need to ponder a problem, or sleep on it. Their language's phrase translates to "to lay your head in water."

So, like the Japanese expression "ganbarimasu," put forth your best effort. Learn some fun and visual ways to engage readers, but remember phrases are not always clear cut, especially for those readers for which English is a Second Language. Learn more about how to write what you mean with our licensing program. Call us today if you have questions: Call us at 425.485.3221. Here’s to good writing!

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