What is (going) wrong?

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by ThomasK, Jul 28, 2014.

  1. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I think that is a common phrase/ question in every language: one sees that something is wrong (children are crying, people are waiting alongside the road, there is a huge queue, ...) and then one asks that question in order to get an explanation...

    - wat scheelt er ? ('schelen' has the same root as 'verschil', difference, and refers to things being different from ... [the way they 'should' be]; therefore we say that some people are scheel, meaning that they are cross-eyed : one eye looks in a different direction than the other)

    - wat is er aan de hand? (lit.: what is at the hand? or something the like - but understood as: what is happening? )

    What is your equivalent for that (and its origin if possible)?
  2. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod (AL mod)

    French (lower Normandy)
    In French, I would say, by order of 'commonness':
    "Qu'est-ce qui se passe ?" (literally: 'What is going on/happening?')
    "Qu'est-ce qu'il y a ?" (literally: 'What is there?') (for someone crying, sad,...)
    "Qu'est-ce qui ne va pas ?" (literally: 'What is not going right?') (for someone crying, sad,...)

    We also have a special verb ("clocher": (verbe) : Du latin populaire cloppicare, de clopus 'boiteux' (lame, wobbly). (wiktionaire)) but we wouldn't really use it to ask someone who's crying what is going on (but I just thought I would mention it since it looks pretty funny, 'clocher' as a noun meaning 'clock tower' and 'cloche' = bell. I didn't know about the 'boiter' thing).
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2014
  3. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I had thought of clocher, which I remembered because in Dutch we can say 'Het klopt' (c'est vrai, it is correct), which I thought was strange because they seemed alike and yet were so different in meaning (aaarrrrhhh, folk etymology). But now I understand the original meaning! Merci...
  4. Radioh

    Radioh Senior Member

    Sydney, Australia
    As far as I'm aware, what we(or only me, perhaps) say will depend on the context. If I see a child crying, I'd say "What's wrong with you ?"; and If I see a huge queue on the street, I'd ask "What's happening ?",... Gì thế ?(What's up ?) can be used in any situations, but only say "what's up" to friends, of course.
  5. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I thought there would be a standard phrase for (supposed) problems. Can you analyse Gì thế ? Or is it just 'What + is wrong' ?
  6. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    In Greek the generic question is «τι συμβαίνει;» [ti sim'veni?] --> what is happening?
    Depending on context one can be more specific and ask «τι σου/σας συμβαίνει;» [ti su (=2nd person sing. weak form of possessive pronoun)/sas (=2nd person pl. or formal weak form of possessive pronoun) simveni?] --> lit. what of you is happening?.

    V. «συμβαίνω» [sim'veno] --> to take place, happen, occur < Classical v. «συμβαίνω» sŭmbaínō --> lit. to be joined to, come to an agreement, come to terms metaph. events come to pass, fall out, happen < compound; prefix, preposition and adv. «σύν» sún (Attic «ξύν» ksún) --> with, together (with obscure etymology) + Classical v. «βαίνω» baínō --> to go (PIE *gʷem-/*gʷeh₂-, to step, go, come, approach cf Skt. गच्छति (gacchati), to go; Lat. venīre, to come, approach; Proto-Germanic *kwemaną, to come > Ger. kommen, Eng. come, Dt. komen, D./Nor. (Bokmål) komme, Nor. (Nynorsk) kome/koma, Swe. komma)
  7. ahmedcowon Senior Member

    In Arabic,

    ما الخطب؟ ma al-khatb? (what is the matter?)
    ماذا يحدث هنا؟ mādha yaḥduθu huna? (what is happening here?)

    In Egyptian Arabic, we say:

    فيه إيه؟ fi eih? (what is there?)
    إيه اللي بيحصل؟ eih illi byeḥsal? (what is happening?)
  8. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    There are no specific questions focusing on a presumable problem then? I thought that would have been the case... Nothing then like 'What is going wrong'?
  9. Словеса Senior Member

    что такое? ("what is it?", literally, "what such [is it]?"),
    что случилось? ("what happened?"),
    что не так? ("what is not right?", literally, "what is not so?"),
    что с тобой? ("what happened to you?", literally, "what is with you?"),
    почему такая очередь? ("why such queue?"),
    что здесь происходит? ("what is happening here?"),
    кого вы здесь ждёте? ("whom you are waiting here for?"),
    and so on.
    The former four are okay in the case of the child crying, the latter three are okay in the case of the queue forming or people waiting on the street.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2014
  10. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    In Russian:
    в чём дело? /v tchiom delo/ - what's the matter (lit., in what [is the] affair)
    что не так? /tchto ne tak/- what's wrong (lit., what is not like that)
    что случилось? /tchto slutchilos'/ - what happened
    что проиходит? /tchto proiskhodit/ - what is happening

    cross-posted with Словеса
  11. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I see some negative words then (not right, such a queue, wrong/not like that).

    - @ Spoveka (?): is 'the queue' literally a queue?
    - @RP: s the 'affair' word (/delo/ ?) always used in a negative sense?
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2014
  12. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    Not at all. It is a very neutral word, could mean affair (without the English meaning of "having a side relationship") or business, matter, etc...
    It has the same root as делать (to do)
  13. Radioh

    Radioh Senior Member

    Sydney, Australia
    Unfortunately, there is not a standard phrase. As for "gì thế ?" it literally means "what is that ?".
    Come to think of it, ThomasK, is it really appropriate to ask a child crying "What's happening/going on ?"(in English).
  14. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    In Urdu: کیا مسئلہ ہے؟ kyaa mas'alah hai? What's the problem/trouble?
    کیا ہوا ہے؟ kyaa hu'aa hai? What's happened? کیا ہو رہا ہے؟ kyaa ho rahaa hai? What's going on/ What's happening?
    کیا چکر ہے؟ kyaa chakkar hai? What's the matter? (lit. a circle, a whirl, but fig. a perplexity, an affair).
  15. Словеса Senior Member

    Yes, it is. There is nothing negative about it. In English, the combination "such a" is negative, as far as I know, but the corresponding Russian word is not: "such a fool!" is possible, but "такой дурак!" (the same word as I used) is not. The negative versions would be "что за дурак!" (non-word-by-word, "what kind of fool!") and "что за очередь!" ("what kind of queue!"), respectively.
  16. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    @Radioh: I am not a native speaker, but I could imagine a situation in which one suspects a child has been hurt by someone, and then, I suppose, that would be possible. In Dutch we would really ask: 'Wat scheelt er?' So: 'What is wrong ?', but mainly in the sense of: what is it that gives you a bad feeling, makes you feel bad? That is quite normal in any language or culture, isn't it? Like: 'What is the matter ?'

    @ Marrish: so the terms are used in some pejorative sense, I guess, whereas they are not pejorative in se.

    @ Spoveka: yet, queues are generally considered unpleasant, aren't they? I could imagine a parallel with 'What is the matter?' 'matter' is neutral, I suppose, but here it might sound a little negative...

    As a matter - but that is just a hypothesis - I think that someone is asking for the 'heart of the matter' because there is some chaos that prevents him from helping, or simply seeing how he can help.
  17. Словеса Senior Member

    That depends on whether you personally have to stay in it and lose time or temper... Also, even an unpleasant thing may have a neutral name, may it not?
  18. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    For sure, names can be considered or are descriptive, or no, referential, but somehow one could say that the difference between 'a queue' and 'a row' is the negative connotation, I think. I am not good at cognitive psychology, but is the name of something unpleasant neutral? Descriptive, yes, or 'referential' would be better, I suppose. But for example: problems can be smaller or bigger, but doesn't the term at least refer to an intrinsically negative content? [We need not go into this further, but you got me going... ;-)]
  19. Словеса Senior Member

    In Russian, очередь is очередь is очередь, that's all I can say; no two words. The content is not intrinsically negative, don't you find? Same for 'problems' (people may like certain problems). I mean, queues are better than crowds where you would have to beat everyone else to get where you want. For example. ;-) All the more nothing unusual that we can separate the concept and the emotion that this concept may cause.
  20. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I still wonder whether you are right, but this is not the place to develop that topic, and it is quite a hard one, I am afraid.
  21. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    I have a feeling there might be confusion here...
    For Russian the only reason a queue was mentioned is in response to one of the examples in the OP.
    There is no Russian expression with "queue", meaning "What is wrong".
  22. Словеса Senior Member

    Yes, exactly. As Radioh pointed out for Vietnamese, the exact question depends on the situation very much. There is no question that works well whenever something appears to be wrong, I think.
  23. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I really don't understand . In general, as far as I can see, attention is triggered precisely by what is wrong. So we then enquire, I think, what is going on, what is wrong? Our question 'Wat scheelt er?' strictly implies: what is "deviant [from the normal situation]? And I believe 'What is the matter?' is about the same as 'What is wrong?' I tried to explain that in a previous message... To me the question is almost self-evident in that situationk. But there may be some kind of misunderstanding, but I don't have a clue where...
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2014
  24. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Hungarian: Mi a baj? (what's the problem)
  25. ancalimon Senior Member


    Sorun nedir? (What is the problem?)
    Neyin var? ((literally) You have got "what?")
  26. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    May I ask what the Hungarian and Turkish words for 'problem' (difficulty, ...) here are? Baj and nedir? Do they have a special root?
  27. ancalimon Senior Member

    Nedir: what is? (literally: it is a what?)

    Sorun: problem > it comes from *sōr meaning "to ask". *sör probably comes from the ProtoTurkic form of Turkish "söy(le)" meaning "say".
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2014
  28. Radioh

    Radioh Senior Member

    Sydney, Australia
    "Wrong" is the key word, I suppose. If it seems that something wrong is happening "what's wrong ?", which literally means "có gì sai à ?", is the standard question.
  29. jana.bo99

    jana.bo99 Senior Member

    Cro, Slo

    Kaj ja narobe?
    Kaj je šlo narobe? (past time)

    Was ist falsch?
    Was ging falsch? (past time)

    Što nije u redu?
    Što nije bilo u redu?

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