© 2017, © The Author(s) 2017. The problems of ‘lost in translation’ are well known. Yet some terms of English managerial vocabulary, which are perfectly translatable in other languages, remain untranslated. One explanation of this phenomenon is what Linguistic anthropology call negative semantic resonances. Semantic resonances focused on the issue of which meanings can or cannot be expressed by a single word in different cultures. In this paper, based on an organisational ethnography of Latin American expatriates working for an Italo-Latin-American multinational corporation (Tubworld), we analyse the resonances of the word leader/líder and director, direttore, capo, guida, coordinador, caudillo among a group of expatriates; all Italian, Spanish or multilingual speakers who use English as a second language in their everyday interactions. The paper explains how the different uses contribute to create a meaning of what a leader should and should not be; someone who leads without leading, sometimes a manager. The authors, an Italian native speaker who learnt Spanish during childhood and use English as his everyday language and a Spanish native speaker, argue that Italian or Spanish speakers not only avoid the words duce and caudillo (the vernacular vocabulary for leader, not in use due to the political and cultural meaning) but also the word leader/líder itself, as it resonate to the other two (violent, authoritarian, autocratic, antidemocratic leadership) but furthermore because the word, a lexical loan from English, failed to encapsulate the complexity of leading multilingual organisations like Tubworld.
- semantic resonances