It often happens in a translation that I can’t use the word I’d like to because it’s too idiomatic or too little known. It’s such a shame because I just love the colour those words would bring to a text.

Yesterday, I translated a text about the renovation of a rail freight terminal which included a list of potential guests to be invited to the official opening. And there it was: bigwigs. In the 17th century, wearing wigs was briefly a fad. Among both men and women. They would shave their heads and wear a wig. But the hair used for making the wigs was very expensive so basically, the more money you had, the bigger your wig. Making you a bigwig! Obviously, I had to use VIPs instead but bigwigs would have been so much nicer.

Or ‘big cheese’, not such a stretch here in the Netherlands where even the Dutch call themselves ‘kaaskoppen’ (cheese heads). But this expression originated much farther away and is another example of words and habits incorporated into English language and customs by British colonists. The word ‘chiz’ in Urdu means a ‘thing’ or an ‘event’. English speakers began to talk of ‘a big chiz’, or big thing and the pronunciation gradually slipped into ‘big cheese’ and was used to describe the big shot, head honcho or big Kahuna (Hawaian).