Other Languages

“Most Die Young,” by Camille Bordas. The New Yorker, 1/2/2017.

Bordas’ article is a fiction piece, but, in one tiny segment, she makes a good point about languages that checks out as true.

When learning about a different culture, we discover much by both words they have but we don’t, and words we have but they don’t. In both cases, not having the word requires a lengthy work-around. If the work-around is used enough, a single word is devised.  Therefore, if a word does not appear in a language, it is not important and not much used.



Examples: Eskimos (I should say Inuits) have over forty words for different types of snow. For us, snow is snow.  Asian cultures have many words for rice designating subtle differences that for us do not matter.

The German word schadenfreude is so handy it is becoming common in English where we do not have an equivalent, never felt the need for one until recently.  We simply use the German word without translation.

In Japanese, the single word tsundoku describes a person who buys books, but just piles them up unread. We do not have an equivalent word in English, but we don’t need one.  We all know people like that, but we don’t talk about them.

Today, we need a similar word for someone who hoards old computer document files that should be deleted.


About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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