The English language has an extraordinary phrase “face control.” It might come as a surprise to you that the word actually came into English from Russian. It is one example of so-called reborrowing. The term was born in the Russian language during the “wild ’90s” in CIS countries.
Back then, at a time when people in the post-Soviet countries were beginning to make big bucks for the first time, upscale nightclubs were springing up like mushrooms after warm summer rain. Bouncers, usually dressed in crimson jackets, would stand outside each of these nightclubs and allow in only people whose socio-economic status matched the club’s rank. What they were actually performing was what came to be known as “face control.”
Everything foreign was deemed expensive and worthy of respect, so the term itself appeared under the guise of an English phrase, thus suggesting that “face controlling” was something popular in the West, i.e., everyone does it there, so we should do it too because we are upper class. The interesting thing is that foreigners are actually annoyed about such sorting.
The phrase “face control” was to be imported into English later. Actually, due to the fact that it was a “loan phrase,” it was even as feis kontrol. It took some time for English speakers to realize that these were their own English words which had somehow found their way into the Russian language and been transformed. Some English-speaking people might even struggle to guess what it means and you’ll find it hard to find an English dictionary that refers to the term.
Every language has its specific features, but some of them are quite a challenge for translators
Among the vast diversity of sounds used by the human to construct words, the so-called click consonants, or clicks, which occur in the Khoisan languages, stand out rather distinctly. They are spoken by the peoples who live in southern Africa near the Kalahari desert. The best-known nation of the Khoisan-speaking indigenous groups is the San people, also known to the rest of the world as the Bushmen, and mostly thanks to the great movie The Gods Must Be Crazy and its sequels.
Those of you who weren’t lucky enough to be born into a San family will find it impossible to pronounce these sounds without training (the task gets even more challenging as there are as many as five kinds of these sounds). Here is what they are like.
When explaining how such extraordinary sounds had found their way into the language, the popular modern anthropologist Stanislav Drobyshevsky introduces an assumption that they assist during hunting: animals don’t associate them with the human speech and consider them to be natural sounds allowing hunters to get closer.
So here comes the issue of writing down the click sounds as there are no actual letters for them. Linguists in many countries have come up with different solutions.
For example, the name of the Namibian bush farmer who starred in the mentioned The Gods Must Be Crazy movie can be written in English as Nǃxau ǂToma or Gcao Tekene Çoma. There have been multiple systems developed, and alternative spellings are still used. Written versions look rather scary, but that’s the best we have so far.