Sunday, November 14, 2010


As much as language shapes our reality, it is also largely inadequate. There is so much that language can say; but there is so much more that language cannot say.

So many times I have wanted to express a feeling or thought, but was unable to do so because words just couldn't fully grasp the nuance of the concept. I find this problem most often occurring to me when trying to express certain feelings or when trying to give accurate descriptions. I still love words though and think they lie at the essence of our being. Yet sometimes words can't suffice. And sometimes words must be twisted into artistic forms to more accurately represent the human experience.

All this thinking came about by stumbling upon these 20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Around the World . 20 words that don't have English equivalents. I know there are many many more out there, but I enjoyed this selection, which included:

Indonesian – “A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh”

Spanish – “the mysterious power that a work of art has to deeply move a person.”

Arabic - “You bury me, a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them."

Japanese – “a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.”

German – Quite famous for its meaning that somehow other languages neglected to recognize, this refers to the feeling of pleasure derived by seeing another’s misfortune.

and my favorite from the list (I can't imagine why don't have this one in English...):

Pascuense (Easter Island) “the act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them.”


  1. so a tributary of philosophy is specifically researching language and so there's a saying "一起尽在不言中"~~

  2. Wait, what is the saying in English?? I can't read chinese!

  3. 嘿嘿(lol)~~ It is directly translated to that "everything is within wordless". It means Silence means everything. OR Thousands of words is not better than silence. OR Hundreds of words, thousands of words, slience is the best. This saying usually describes the close relationship of mates/friends/family since no words can express that.

  4. Oh, nice. I really like it! It's a very beautiful saying.

    (In addition, I'm thinking the fact that we have to use words to describe what words can't express is a bit ironic)

  5. yeah, you find it~ But in this aspect, feeling is also a language. Even though we can't express feeling in words correctly, we can make the feeling itself-language-conveyed and touch others.

    If you like, I'd glad to teach you Chinese, :)