Word of the Day: Vai!

One of these days – and I swear this is true – I’m going to go spend a few weeks up in the mountains, living in a small wooden cabin with nothing but a cot and a typewriter so I can write my academic masterpiece, which will be entitled The Subtle Expression of Latent Third Wave Feminism in Auditory Media Space by Roxana Prințesa Ardealului. Then I’m going to translate it into Romanian and present it at the Academy in Bucharest to thunderous applause.

Okay well that’s perhaps just a fantasy *coughcough* :P but once again she has reminded me of a useful Romanian word that you’ll never find in a textbook.

The word vai (rhymes with eye) is an interjection or exclamation, a little baby of a word that can be used to mean almost anything, as long as it’s heartfelt.

Consider it a word to mean “mercy!” or “goodness!” or “land’s sake!” or perhaps even “ahh, shucks!” or perhaps “oh no s/he didn’t!”. Since it’s a tidy little interjection, there’s no need to conjugate it, modify it, decline it, or match it with number or gender. It’s a real handy word, come to think of it.

If you click here, you can hear her say it for yourself around the one minute mark where she exclaims:

Tigane, tigane iti dau milioane
sa ma faci nevasta ta, vai!

However by far the most common use of vai is in the expression vai de capul meu, literally “vai from my head”, sometimes abbreviated to just “de capu’ meu”. Since it’s a folksy kind of saying, you can get away with dropping the “extra” L there. Nobody will mind ;)

What does vai de capu’ meu mean? It means “Good golly” or “Why, I never!” or “Holy cow!” or “Get a load of that, will ya?” or perhaps “Great googly moogly!” A cruder person might even translate it as “holy sh*t” although in Romanian it’s not offensive in the slightest. It’s an expression you use to indicate surprise or shock or (faint) outrage.

In other words, if you go to the market and see that they’ve jacked up the price on food again, you shake your head and say vai de capu’ meu. See? Now you sound just like a Romanian! :D

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