Big fun!

A friend of mine who is learning Welsh likes to translate Welsh expressions literally and then use them in English. One Welsh equivalent of goodbye is hwyl fawr [hʊɨl vaur], which he translates as “big fun”, which sounds quite funny in English. Do any other languages have a phrase used when parting that has a similar meaning?

The Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru explains hwyl fawr as “a valediction, roughly equivalent to ‘All the best!’, or ‘Cheers!’. Which should not be confused with yr hwyl fawr, which is ‘the principal sail of a ship, mail-sail or main-sheet.’

hwyl can also mean:
– sail (of ship, windmill, etc), sheet, covering, pall
– journey, progress, revolution, orbit, course, route, career, rush, assault, attack
– healthy physical or mental condition, good form, one’s right senses, wits; tune (of musical instrument); temper, mood, frame of mind; nature disposition; fervour, ecstasy, gusto, zest
– merry-making, hilarity, jollity, mirth, gaiety, amusement, fun, humour

Some expressions featuring hwyl include:
– am hwyl = for fun, by way of a joke
– hwyl dda = fine state of health; good spirits, good mood
– hwyl ddrwg = physical indisposition; bad mood
– cael hwyl = to have fun, enjoy oneself, make good progress
– cael hwyl am ben (rhywun) = to make fun of (someone)
– pob hwyl = similar to hwyl fawr

Do you use literal translations of foreign expressions in your own language like this?

6 thoughts on “Big fun!

  1. In Catalan one puts “the” before someone’s first name : “La María”, “en Jaume”.

    Do it in English for puzzled looks: “How’s the Mary?”.

  2. Colloquial German does the same thing with first names: “Wo ist der Hans?” “Die Anna ist hier”. I believe it adds a note of intimacy: Hans and Anna are family members, or at least people we both know very well.

  3. Modern Greek also frequently uses its definite article with first names Ο/ο (m) Η/η (f) eg. “Ο Κέβιν…” ‘(The) Kevin…’ – “Η Μαρία….” ‘(The) Mary…’

  4. That’s a coincidence, I was thinking about the word ‘hwyl’ last week. My guess is that the word in it’s meaning of a ‘sail’ on a ship was the original meaning. From that comes ‘hwylio’ (to sail) and in a way all the other meanings come from an emotion of moving along in a good steady trouble free way.

    Someone in in ‘hwyliau da’ would be, literally, someone’s in ‘good sail’. From there it’s a small step to the word ‘hwyl’ being associated with good humour and from there to fun.

    ‘hwyl fawr’ as a greeting isn’t so much ‘big fun’ but more in the mood of ‘may things go well.

    ‘hwyl’ is almost as ‘chao’ as a farewell greeting in Welsh – handy, democratic, not too formal but not too informal either. Welsh people will tend to say “hwyl fawr, tara” (tara = ta ta in English).

    My monolingual children growing up in Aberystwyth noticed when they were about 3 years old that English people living in Aberystwyth (that is people from England) would say “bye bye” whilst Welsh people (Welsh speakers and non-Welsh speakers) would all say “tara”.

  5. Interesting post, Simon. I honestly can’y pinpoint a language greeting meaning something equivalent to ‘big fun.’ The only example of a deviance from the standard intention of the English ‘goodbye’ that I can think of is one expression used in the workplaces of Japan. In Japanese, the farewell phrase ‘お疲れ様でした’ or in romanji ‘Otsukaresamadeshita’ is often used as a ‘goodbye’ to colleagues and literally means something along the lines of ‘thank you for your hard work.’

  6. Totally interesting, and seems fun 🙂 In Croatian we have “veselo”, which means jolly, what you say when meeting or parting from someone..

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