On the tip of one's tongue

BethT

New Member
England, English
I'm reading a book in translation (Luria/Zasetsky - the man with the shattered world). I don't have a copy in Russian, but I would like to know whether it is likely that the description of a word as being "on the tip of my tongue" is expressed in a similar idiom in Russian, or whether the translator is using the English idiom to express something that is described differently in Russian.

Is there a similar idiom, or a different one, to describe the experience of being almost able to find a word? If there is a different one what would a literal translation of it be?

Thanks for any help.
 
  • Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    I was minded to make some ... erm ... "enquiries" ;), and you might be interested to know how your phrase appeared in the original Russian. An elegant rendering in the English translation, I think:

    „Я живу в беспамятном мире”

    (...) Я не мог почему-то, не мог вспомнить названия своего района, своего поселка и даже своей области, хотя мне казалось, что я вот-вот назову их, но вот никак не могу вспомнить, хоть жди час, другой или жди весь день...А мой сосед взялся вспоминать за меня различные области, районы, поселки, различные имена и отчества. (marxists.org)
    “My World Has No Memories”
    (...) Somehow I also couldn’t remember the name of my own region or village, even the province I was from. They seemed to be on the tip of my tongue, but an hour or two or a whole day would go by and I still couldn’t come up with them. The fellow in the bed next to mine offered to help me recall them by naming various provinces, regions, villages. Also, different first names and patronymics. (You can download 'The Man with a Shattered World' free here, p89.)
     
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    BethT

    New Member
    England, English
    I was minded to make some ... erm ... "enquiries" ;), and you might be interested to know how your phrase appeared in the original Russian. An elegant rendering in the English translation, I think:
    Oh interesting, so the Russian original (according to Google translate!) is just literal here... Not the answer I wanted, was hoping the translation was very close throughout, but very useful to know!
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    Well the Russian is well rendered in English by "on the tip of my tongue" here or, alternatively, something like "it seemed to me that their names would come to me at any moment", or "that I would be able to name them ...".

    The Google (and Yandex) Translate versions that came up for me ("although it seemed to me that I was about to name them") are actually both incorrect as they mistranslate the perfective назову as having simply a future meaning, and miss the nuance of the perfective here, which is that he would succeed in naming them, he would "get the naming done" - completion of the action (of naming). The point here is that his memory has gone, so he lacks the ability (not the intention as conveyed by "about to") to name them.
     

    BethT

    New Member
    England, English
    Well the Russian is well rendered in English by "on the tip of my tongue" here or, alternatively, something like "it seemed to me that their names would come to me at any moment", or "that I would be able to name them ...".

    The Google (and Yandex) Translate versions that came up for me ("although it seemed to me that I was about to name them") are actually both incorrect as they mistranslate the perfective назову as having simply a future meaning, and miss the nuance of the perfective here, which is that he would succeed in naming them, he would "get the naming done" - completion of the action (of naming). The point here is that his memory has gone, so he lacks the ability (not the intention as conveyed by "about to") to name them.
    Thanks for all your reflections and comments on this. Confirms my wish that I could read the book in Russian - so much of it is about specific words and his experience of language, and it took him such a long time to write, finding those particular words, that it seems almost rude to read it in translation! I'm writing about it for work so following this discussion I think I'll see if I can get a translator involved for a better understanding.
     

    nizzebro

    Senior Member
    Russian
    A funny thought came to me - that's because in Russian, with its palatalized consonants, the tip of your tongue is not the most active part - the energy is concentrated rather on its body :)
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    A funny thought came to me - that's because in Russian, with its palatalized consonants, the tip of your tongue is not the most active part - the energy is concentrated rather on its body :)
    In fact, yes. Among ~37 consonant sounds which are contrasted in Russian usually only 5 can be called apical and 4 are apicolaminal. And no rhotic vowels, of course. The middle part, on the other hand, directly or indirectly participates in articulation of most consonants.
     
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    Rosett

    Senior Member
    Russian
    You can say, «крутится/вертится на языке», as if in: «Название/имя крутилось на языке».
     
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