What’s the word? OR concepts from other cultures that lack words in English

What’s the word? OR concepts from other cultures that lack words in English
During my German studies in high school, college and abroad, I first learned that there are words, beliefs and other aspect of unfamiliar cultures that defy easy understanding or translation. Often these are the words that get to the heart of the culture from which they live. Because a word may have no parallel, even in languages that are often considered intermediate, the concepts get somewhat lost. Or masked as something more complex than concepts we perceive as simpler only because we happen to have a word for them.

I ran across an intriguing article at BigThink.com, The Top 10 Relationship Words That Aren’t Translatable Into English.

Here’s are the first two. Visit BigThink.com for the rest. And think about how many other lists there must be out there yet to be compiled, how many other concepts are waiting to be shared or given words.

(Yagan, an indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego): The wordless yet meaningful look shared by two people who desire to initiate something, but are both reluctant to start.

Oh yes, this is an exquisite word, compressing a thrilling and scary relationship moment. It’s that delicious, cusp-y moment of imminent seduction. Neither of you has mustered the courage to make a move, yet. Hands haven’t been placed on knees; you’ve not kissed. But you’ve both conveyed enough to know that it will happen soon… very soon.

(Chinese): A relationship by fate or destiny. This is a complex concept. It draws on principles of predetermination in Chinese culture, which dictate relationships, encounters and affinities, mostly among lovers and friends.

From what I glean, in common usage yuanfen means the “binding force” that links two people together in any relationship.

But interestingly, “fate” isn’t the same thing as “destiny.” Even if lovers are fated to find each other they may not end up together. The proverb, “have fate without destiny,” describes couples who meet, but who don’t stay together, for whatever reason. It’s interesting, to distinguish in love between the fated and the destined. Romantic comedies, of course, confound the two.


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