Playing the Lexical Field

Over at the Guardian this morning, a list of “untranslatable” words and their translations, along with a few thoughts on what it means for a word’s true meaning to be limited to its speakers.

Think of it like this: the real world is a plain patch of ground, and language is a net we throw over it. Each time the net falls, every one of the diamond-shaped holes lands on a slightly different patch. The net’s a bit worn out, and some of the holes are torn, meaning they cover more ground. Some bunch up and cover less. Think of words as being like these holes: so saudade might mean something slightly more than homesickness, whereas dépaysement means something less, referring only to that kind of homesickness you get from being in a foreign country.

For me, this came up in my Google Alert for saudade, a Portuguese word Manuel Melo defines as “a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy.” Like say, the internet. Just kidding — saudade also has something to do with missing things, and you can’t miss the internet. It hasn’t gone anywhere.

Anyways, I hope you hyggelig people have time to utepils today, and maybe even come up with a solid schnapsidee.

[The Guardian]

More ...