Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Words That Have No English Equivalents

Originally posted on January 5, 2016

I’ve encountered several books that recognize that other languages have words for which there are no English equivalents: (1) Ella Frances Sanders’ “Lost in Translation”; The Meaning of Tingo by Adam Jacob de Boinod; and Howard Rhinegold’s They Have a Word for It. In noting this I just found two others: C. J. Moore’s “In Other Words,” and B. Cassin, E. Apter, J. Lezra, & M. Wood (Eds.), Dictionary of Untranslatables.

The point of these is not just to entertain us by offering us words that expand our vision, but beyond that, in my mind, to invite us to dare to imagine things that should have words. The New York Times, (was it?) Sunday Supplement had a little column on words we don’t have in our standard vocabulary but there should be such as word. The point for me is that we should be empowered to imagine, to dare to play, to reach with our minds into new possibilities. It’s hard to think about things with a limited vocabulary. And though we have far, far more to think about or be aware of than can be handled by our poor, befuddled brains, yet there are innumerable pioneers reaching beyond the bounds of thinkability to name an experience or something that has as yet not been named. Be empowered thus and let us know what you come up with!

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