"Taken by surprise"

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ThomasK

Senior Member
Belgium, Dutch
How does someone "take" you by surprise metaphorically in your language? "S/he ... [caught (me) by surprise]"

ONly basic words and metaphors , i suggest, not the intensive verbal variants like stunning, amazing, nor the exclamations.

Dutch
- hij verraste mij [verrassen contains "ras",fast/quick, same root as "to race"]
- zij viel met de deur in huis [fell into the house by (with) the door?] - without any (lit./ fig.) introduction
There are others referring to surprise-with-intensity but that might be too much...
 
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  • Greek:

    «Με πιάνεις/πιάνετε εξαπίνης» [ˈme ˈpça.nis e.k͡saˈpi.nis] --> you (informal or singular) catch me suddenly, [ˈme ˈpça.ne.te e.k͡saˈpi.nis] --> you (formal or plural) catch me all of a sudden.
    «Εξαπίνης» is an ancient adverb that has survived in MoGr and used in the vernacular < Classical adv. «ἐξαπίνης» ĕksăpínēs --> suddenly, all of a sudden (of unknown etymology, possibly related to the adjective «αἰπύς, -εῖα, -ύ» ai̯pús (masc.), ai̯peî̯ă (fem.), ai̯pú (neut.) --> high and steep, on high, towering, arduous; per Beekes, the variants with π/ψ (cf adv. «αἶψα» aî̯psă --> quickly, suddenly) point to Pre-Greek substrate).

    «Μ'έπιασες με κάτω τα βρακιά» [ˈme.pça.ses ˈme ˈka.tɔ ta vraˈca] --> you caught me with (my) underwear down (colloq.)
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    English has "caught" as well, I believe: "caught by surprise", but here you seem to imply something like "from up high, from above"...

    The other one is recognizable of course! ;-)

    One addition: "U overvalt mij daarmee" is not impossible. I mention this because it might be a calque of "to surprise" : over-vallen (literally: over-fall, ot over-take though). As a matter of fact, in German the surprise word is "Überraschung", with "Über" meaning "over", suggesting "above, higher".

    Now that might be a clear link with πιάνεις. As a matter of fact we can - in Belgian Dutch at least - uit de lucht vallen, fall from the sky, literally, which might remind of "out of th blue" (the blue referring to the sky, i think).
     
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    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Interesting note. It reminds me of something I thought of: I think the sor-presa is originally not that positive at all: the presa-verbs remind me (us?) of catching, arresting, grabbing, so fairly unpleasant.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Russian basically uses specific verbs for that:
    1. застигнуть/застигать (zastígnut'/zastigát'); the meaning of the root -stig- is obscure from the modern perspective, even though it's also present in the verbs "to realize", "to reach" and "to catch (while chasing)"; etymologically the unprefixed Proto-Slavic verb must have meant "to attain, to reach".
    2. застать/заставать (zastát'/zastavát'); the prefix za- is the same, although it's a bit difficult to understand its meaning here (the meanings may be "to the back part of", "into", inchoative, just perfective...). -sta- is related to "staying" and "standing up" > "becoming".
    Both then attach the adverb "врасплох" ("vrasplо́kh") - "by surprise" (etymologically obscure, although в- clearly means "into"). Withought that, they may be translated as "to catch" (figuratively - usually while the object is doing something or is present somewhere); the second one also contextually translates as ~"to (be in time to) witness".
     
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    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    In Catalan, my favourite for this would be:

    agafar / trobar (algú) amb els pixats al ventre
    = catch/find (somebody) with his/her piss in the guts.​
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Russian basically uses specific verbs for that:
    1. застигнуть/застигать (zastígnut'/zastigát'); the meaning of the root -stig- is obscure from the modern perspective, even though it's also present in the verbs "to realize", "to reach" and "to catch (while chasing)"; etymologically the unprefixed Proto-Slavic verb must have meant "to attain, to reach".
    2. застать/заставать (zastát'/zastavát'); the prefix za- is the same, although it's a bit difficult to understand its meaning here (the meanings may be "to the back part of", "into", inchoative, just perfective...). -sta- is related to "staying" and "standing up" > "becoming".
    Both then attach the adverb "врасплох" ("vrasplо́kh") - "by surprise" (etymologically obscure, although в- clearly means "into"). Withought that, they may be translated as "to catch" (figuratively - usually while the object is doing something or is present somewhere); the second one also contextually translates as ~"to (be in time to) witness".
    is the -sta- an intransive verb turned transitive? (We can do it with "staan" (stand) as well in Dutch)
    Could you interpret (1) as getting hold of perhaps? 2 is quite unclear to me, so it seems, but can you use the word in other contexts?
    In general the structure and meaning might be very similar to the English expression, might they not?
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    Unsurprisingly, Czech, as a Slavic language, pretty much follows the first example in Russian explained by Awwal12 in #7, with a slight difference in the sense of the prefix:
    Zastihnout: to catch someone by chance (but not necessarily by surprise), so zastihl jsem ho doma - I managed to catch him at home (he happened to be at home when I called, but he wasn't necessarily surprised).
    Přistihnout: to take someone by surprise, to catch someone unawares, so přistihl jsem ho při činu: I caught him in the act, I caught him red-handed, I caught him with his pants down (and he certainly was surprised).
    Interestingly, neither of these two (perfective) verbs has an imperfective form in common use in Czech. The sense of the verb is perfective, and the "stih" meaning is also as described in #7 - to reach, attain, catch (by chasing) and is clearly present in related words.
    There are other words, too, for "take by surprise" - zaskočit: connotations of "jumping", and překvapit: connotations of (excessive) haste.
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Interesting note! I would think the first one is catching (arresting, grabbing, but in a very figurative sense) unawares or something, but I do not think it is literally a surprise, I think. I do agree the idea of catching is typical of surprise too, but still...
    It is often a matter of speed in the "genuine" equivalents, I suppose, as is suggested by -skoc- and -kvap- (as in Dutch and German: ras-/ rasch-)...
     

    Vovan

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Could you interpret (1) as getting hold of perhaps?
    I'm afraid not. The ancient Indo-European root "-stig-" supposedly means "to walk":
    whereas the Russian prefix "za-" may express an unplanned result of an action. Hence, a close analogy of "застигнуть" in English might be "to walk in on somebody" (which, very broadly speaking, is synonymous with "to catch by surprise").
    2 is quite unclear to me
    "Застать" means "to happen to be somewhere (~ stay) 1. long enough or 2. by chance, and encounter somebody/something there".
    (Of course, we are interested in the second meaning only - i.e. the one that contains "by chance".)

    "За-" in "застать" can be understood by analogy with the Latin "pre-" (=before, in front) in "prehendo":
    Interestingly enough, the Latin verb has the broad spectrum of meanings that have been mentioned above (including those in #7 by Awwal: "to understand", "to reach", etc.).
     
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    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    To be taken on the bed? Caught while sleeping? - Well, not implausible, though we do not have a parallel. But no verb like "surprised"?

    I'm afraid not. The ancient Indo-European root "-stig-" supposedly means "to walk": Proto-Indo-European/steygʰ-, whereas the Russian prefix "za-" may express an unplanned result of an action. Hence, a close analogy of "застигнуть" in English might be "to walk in on somebody" (which, very broadly speaking, is synonymous with "to catch by surprise").

    "Застать" means "to happen to be somewhere (~ stay) 1. long enough or 2. by chance, and encounter somebody/something there".
    (Of course, we are interested in the second meaning only - i.e. the one that contains "by chance".)

    "За-" in "застать" can be understood by analogy with the Latin "pre-" (=before, in front) in "prehendo":
    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/prehendo
    Interestingly enough, the Latin verb has the broad spectrum of meanings that have been mentioned above (including those in #7 by Awwal: "to understand", "to reach", etc.).
    Thanks for the endeavour to explain the meaning!!!
     

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    In addition to apmoy70's post in #2, another Greek figurative expression for "to take someone by surprise" is "πιάνω κάποιον στον ύπνο" ['pçano 'kapçon ston 'ipno] (lit. "to catch someone in sleep").
     

    Włoskipolak 72

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Polish

    caught by surprise = zaskoczony
    za (behind) +skoczyć (to jump)

    verbs : zaskoczyć , zaskakiwać = wprawić kogoś w zdumienie lub zakłopotanie czymś niespodziewanym ( to amaze or confuse someone with something unexpected ) , zdarzyć się lub wystąpić nieoczekiwanie dla kogoś ( happen or happen unexpectedly for someone)


    zażyć kogoś = to take by surprise somebody
    za (behind) +‎ żyć (to live)

    zażywać = to take ,to enjoy , to put on the spot


    spaść jak grom z jasnego nieba - o czymś, co wydarzyło się nagle, gwałtownie; o czymś zaskakującym, niespodziewanym

    to fall like a bolt from the blue - about something that happened suddenly, violently; about something surprising, unexpected
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Interesting to notice that "behind" turns up here! It is quite logical to some extent, but in Dutch (and German, English...) "over" , French "sur" would be more common, I guess: overvallen = to fall above someone, rendering him/ her powerless... German über-raschen: sur-prise.

    Falling from the sky is indeed unexpected, like out of the blue. Is that perfectly the same as surprise? It might be: it came as a surprise...
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Interesting to notice that "behind" turns up here!
    I doubt it's directly related, though. The Slavic za- (the same as in Russian zastát' and zastígnut') has a lot of meanings, the spatial "behind" being only one of them (predictably enough, the meaning appears only in motion verbs and in some types of nouns and adjectives derived from prepositional phrases). Other meanings must be ultimately derived from the spatial one, of course, but that must have had happened long before the discussed words came to life, and is therefore irrelevant.
     
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