A delightful phenomenon in translation is the transfer of words from and into other languages. As we all know languages are remarkably flexible systems and it is an enjoyable sight when we see a word break free of one language and migrate into another system and then take on a new life. Making the break from one system and moving to another is the simple part. Putting roots down in another system is a little more complicated.
The hegemony of English has meant that other languages readily steal or are sometimes compelled to borrow from English. New dictionaries that use English, be they Polish-English, German-English, French-English or otherwise often contain false friend sections where we can learn how we should avoid certain words and constructions. Countless lists of such false friends can be easily found on the internet.
An interesting transfer that has occurred relatively recently is the term mobbing. The verb to mob means ‘to jostle, hustle’; ‘to crowd into’ or ‘to attack in large numbers’. However, the word mobbing has decided to burrow into the rich, fertile ground of several other languages including German and Polish wherein it has come to mean something different.
In these two languages, mobbing can refer to mental and physical attacks and generally intimidation found in the workplace. This has led to a situation where German and Polish translators often translate the word mobbing straight into English without considering its context whereas a more appropriate English equivalent for this English loanword would be bullying, intimidation or harassment.