The beauty of untranslatable words

There are dozens and hundreds more of these types of words. And save for a few exceptions, we probably all understand the concepts they represent and have felt them for ourselves. So why doesn’t every culture have words like these ones, if they represent things that are relatable to all of us? The novelist Salman Rushdie once wrote in his novel Shame, “To unlock a society, look at its untranslatable words.” How true is that? America is known for being a fairly unhealthy country; I know it’s a fairly recently popularized term, but does any other language have a word that means “food baby”?

To be honest, though, maybe it’s better if those words are untranslatable. Better to leave them in their original form, rather than translate them and leave something necessary out in the process. I wish we could start adopting those words, though, because I’d love to be able to use words like “wabi-sabi” (侘び寂び), or the Japanese concept of finding beauty in the imperfections of life and accepting them. Kind of like accepting that untranslatable words, as beautiful as they are, can’t be said in our own languages.

 Thought Catalog

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