Вот ещё ответы на тот же вопрос, полученные в переводческой рассылке.
Я просто процитирую ответы, которые получил, без имён; думаю, авторы не были бы против.
Любые дополнительные добавления, поправки, комментарии, замечания приветствуются.
In French people say allez! allez!, c'est rien (though sometimes that would obviously be insensitive) and perhaps even pleur un bon coup. In German it's na, na. In Spain it's venga, even with someone to whom you usually say tu. To my shame and regret, I can't remember what it is in Chile, but I think my mother would have said, "No llore, mijito." In England it's nothing at all or "pull yourself together." Just kidding.
In Ecuador it would be "ya, ya", and means simply "I'm here, it's ok".
Funny - I've been thinking about it recently, watching my mother-in-law interacting with my 4-month-old daughter. In Polish I would say "no już, już" - which I find particularly difficult to translate into
English. It's something like "OK, not any more, not any more" or "OK now, now" (as in: nothing is wrong any more, everything is OK now). It's funny how - as you say - the literal meaning of such words
doesn't matter and probably differs totally between languages...
In Slovenian we use "no, no", which is the equivalent of "there, there" and probably similar to your "nu, nu", and "daj, daj" or "daj no, daj" which literally means "give, give". I checked if there's anything in the
etymology dictionary and, of course, there isn't. My guess would be that it's an ellipsis from "daj no mir, saj ne bo nic hudega", literally "come on, give yourself some peace, everything will be ok", but this is a very free interpretation.
Depending on the situational context and the age of the person who's crying, but especially to children, in German you'd say somethinh in the line of "ist ja gut" (it's OK, really), "ist schon gut" (it's already OK), "(nun) komm, komm" ((now) come, come).
In Mexico, "ya, ya, ya", which has exactly the meanings the Polish expression: "now, now", or "not any more, not any more"; as in "it's over now"