Dropping some law knowledge to make it feel like home ’round here…

The world’s most difficult word to translate has been identified as “ilunga” from the Tshiluba language spoken in south-eastern DR Congo. It means “a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time”, and tops a list drawn up by 1000 linguists, seconded by the Yiddish word shlimazl, “a chronically unlucky person”. Chutzpah must be in there somewhere: in a Jewish law article about the word’s first appearance in a Supreme Court decision Jack Achiezer Guggenheim says:

A federal court in the Northern District of Illinois noted in a decision a couple of years ago that chutzpah means shameless audacity; impudence; brass. Leo Rosten’s The Joys of Yiddish defines chutzpah as a Yiddish idiom meaning “gall, brazen nerve, effrontery.” But neither English translation can do the word justice; neither definition can fully capture the audacity simultaneously bordering on insult and humor which the word chutzpah connotes. As a federal district court in the District of D.C. noted in 1992 that chutzpah is “presumption-plus-arrogance such as no other word, and no other language can do justice to.”

Perhaps the classic “legal” definition of chutzpah is the closest; a person who kills his parents and pleads for the court’s mercy on the ground of being an orphan.

First link via Bookninja.


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