Translation musings: Tell me why…? – a Russian untranslatable

Oct 21, 2015 | First Edition Translations, Language, Miscellaneous, Translation


Asking questions is a good way of learning – this is how kids learn and expand their horizons. Wanting to find the reason behind things is a respectable endeavour, however, if it’s taken to the extreme, it can be quite annoying to the conversational partners. I am sure we have all met people who just wouldn’t stop asking all those “why?” questions, snooping into others’ business!

Why isn’t there a word for such an awkward person you might ask? Well, it might be true that in English there isn’t any but Russians have come up with one that you can borrow if you’d like: почемучка (pochemuchka).

The root of the word is почему (pochemu) which means “why”. The word почемучка comes from a Russian children’s book, Что я видел (chto ya videl, What I saw) written by Boris Zhitkov. This book tells the adventures of an inquisitive little boy, whose nickname is – you’ve guessed it right – Pochemuchka!

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