In the vein of words that are hard to translate, Melbourne’s The Wheeler Centre (“Books, Writing, Ideas“) has a post on Language that defies translation. The article they link to is comparatively lame compared to what translator’s experience frequently in my opinion – some of the words aren’t so much hard to translate as from a different culture (Drachenfutter) or time (Snorker), and including words like Potlatch and Frotteur doesn’t give the source much gravitas.
Much more interesting is the comment on the Wheeler Centre post, which I quote here:
I love the Shane Maloney story about the letter he received from his Japanese translator trying to make sense of ‘Stiff’ for a Japanese audience. ‘Unreconstructed Whitlamite’ and ‘paddle-pop stick’ were tricky but the one sentence that proved totally untranslatable was ‘Wendy had pissed in every pocket within a bull’s roar of Lake Burley Griffin’. Untranslatable indeed.