Hard Nut to Crack

The world of the translator is rife with mismatches, bizarre phrases and uncomfortable equivalents. We have already looked at the concept of collocational transference in a previous blog entry (click here). However, the linguistic world is awash with strange constructions that provide the translator with hours of laborious strain, hair-wrenching frustration, but sometimes gleeful linguistic sport.

An interesting phrase is the Polish mieszanka studencka which is the well-known and popular mix of peanuts, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds and raisins. A logical equivalent would be student mix, however, this term does not exist in English.

The Polish mieszanka studencka probably stems from the German Studentenfutter or, perhaps even from the authentic English equivalent student food (also brain food) which in the British version of the ‘recipe’ may also contain brazil nuts and walnuts. However, there is a slight problem as student food also has a rather negative connotation implying cheap and/or microwaveable/canned food typically eaten by British university students.

Another possible equivalent is what is sometimes known as a trail mix which hikers, walkers and backpackers take along with them on their trails. An innovative linguistic concoction is the word gorp which is a backronym of the words Good Old Raisins and Peanuts which would probably be a rather favourable translation of mieszanka studencka.

Thus, we could use student food, trail mix or the innovative gorp.

15 Responses to “Hard Nut to Crack”

  1. Transblawg Says:

    Gorp, scroggin / Studentenfutter

    The weblog transubstantiation discusses translating the Polish term for Studentenfutter into English: An interesting phrase is the Polish mieszanka studencka which is the well-known and popular mix of peanuts, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds and raisins. A…

  2. transubstantiation Says:

    Obviously, terms can be nationally or locally specific, thus, ‘trail mix’ might be popular in one particular area, whereas ‘gorp’, or even ‘scroggin’ (Sultanas, Chocolate, Raisins, Orange peel, Ginger, Glucose, Improvisation or imagination, Nuts) would be popular elsewhere.

  3. maju Says:

    By the way, a propos difficulties in translating, I have found some expressions connected with painting techniques whose meaning I would like to transfer into Polish and find Polish equivalents, but it’s not so easy. That’s why I ask all of you about ideas and official Polish names(if there are such ones of course…) for words such as: fore edge painting, fat over lean, orange peel. All of them are formal collocations from painting field.

  4. ela Says:

    When we translate idiomatic expressions we need to bear in ind cultural differences. I have just found expression:

    wins some lose some – we translate it as raz na wozie raz pod wozem.

    I have also noticed one expression that in English and polish are similar : to sift wheat from the chaff- oddzielić ziarno od plew

  5. transubstantiation Says:

    Idioms are intrinsically linked to culture, a fact often forgotten by many people.

  6. Anna Burnos Says:

    my idea is ” a mix of cheap students”🙂

  7. transubstantiation Says:

    Or a “cheap mix of students”…

  8. Pawel Says:

    I think that was writen in this short fragment is true. There’s a number of such collocations, phrases that make the translator work an hour on one line of text. My group is working on one of the wikipedia project topics and my task is to translate only one page of text. Someone could think that this should be a simple work, but it isn’t. The first paragraph of that text, which is about 6 or 7 lines long, I translated for more than an hour. There were two or three phrases that I had to look for. Some I did find, some I couldn’t. Well, I had to translate these words somehow. I managed to do it but I had to be very careful when doing it. Translating collocations is often a very hard task.

  9. aggie Says:

    I have never liked “mieszanka studencka” name for one of my most favourite comfort food. I think that what is important here is to explain that raisins, dates, almonds, apricots, nuts etc. are very RICH in minerals and vitamins; therefore, they should not be named after a social group of people who are generally POOR.I feel a clash of ideas or rahter a kind of paradox here when I hear “mieszanka studencka”. I would name this marvellous package of delicious fruit with a name that would read: Royal Cornucopia of Sante…Bye…

  10. transubstantiation Says:

    The point is that this is regarded as cheap food…

  11. Martyna Says:

    Seriously, it’s hard to come up with a nice equivalent to encompass all ideas. I was racking my brain for the whole day and nothing suitable has arisen…yet :))
    However, as far as nuts and dried fruits are concerned, is there any one-word equivalents of the word “bakalie” ? I haven’t found any. It’s usually something longer like “dried fruits and nuts”, “Backobst mit Nussen” etc.


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