When English can’t quite cover it.
A Portuguese word I love is enrolado. In Brazil, it seemed to be everywhere. It can mean rolled up, like a roll of paper, or a kite string. There are snacks called enrolados made of cheese and ham rolled in bread, or sausages in pastry (yup, sausage rolls).
Tasty treats aside, the word is peppered through everyday speech and has a broader reach with many little offshoots. Something enrolado might be tangled up, or in a confusion – a muddled mess. A person can be enrolado too – temporarily enrolado while doing something, or someone generally enrolado – they might get the job done, but they are not the most efficient or direct; they are liable to get things mixed up and most likely run late. It can be also be a verb – if you ‘enrolar‘ somebody, you sort of spin them along, stall them – testing their patience – making them wait.
How good is all that from one little word?
Enrolado, to me, is just very Brazilian; it’s hard to explain. Its use is natural, vibrant, and kind of fun. Expressions like this bring language to life – a good, specialised translator will know and love these, and embrace the challenges they present. (Google translate, I’ll point out, tells us ‘enrolado’ means “rolled.”)
How to translate enrolado …well, of course, it depends on context. We don’t have an equivalent in English. Things can be rolled up, yes. You can roll yourself, or a ball or a wheel. But rolled isn’t also being in a muddle. A thing can get tangled, but not a person. You can’t be characteristically tangled, though you can get in a muddle. But tangle someone else? Hardly. (It occurs to me that the Scots word ‘fankle’ comes nearer with it meanings, although you can’t be a fankled person or fankle someone else.)
For a translator needing to keep in more than one of these connotations at the same time? Tricky.
So, one example: Voce tá me enrolando! We might say something like: You’re stringing me along/ you’re stalling me/ you’re messing me around. Making that sound natural in English would depend on who was talking, where and who to. Because in translation the solution is all about context, and purpose. Reading the original carefully for nuance, knowing the culture behind it and carefully considering who the target text is speaking to.
Sometimes the answer will pop into the translator’s head in a flash, but it can also take longer. I might well be in the shower or out on my bike when it finally comes to me. So, plenty time built into a deadline for thinking and reviewing – it’s justified, people! Even more so the more creative a text it is.
So if you’re impatient for that apparently short text to be finished, remember: it takes thought and time; we’re not just being enrolado, you know! No need to get yourself in a fankle about it.