Monthly Archives: February 2009

Those untranslatable words

I’m back! After several days – I’ve finally managed to unlock my mind again – to toss out those pointless nuggets of wisdom to the world and causing much embarrassment to myself. What had happened? I don’t know – guess I had gotten stuck into the work routine rather intensely – refusing to give myself that time to reflect and contemplate. I had become too cautious of what I put out there giving up the opportunity to make a fool of myself. So what changed? After several months I finally downloaded a couple of podcasts from the Stanford Entrepreneurship Corner and listened to Jeff Housenbold – the CEO of Shutterfly and Tom Kelley from IDEO. Tom’s talk was fantastic and woke me up. Guess I need to do this podcast and random reading thing as often as I used to. As Tom says – treat life like an experiment.

So what’s this one about? It about Schadenfreude. The happiness that humans experience upon others’ misfortunes. You’ve always felt it – but did you know there was a word for it?

A very common feeling, which unless you’ve actually heard the word – making it an identifable part of the human condition – is otherwise followed by feelings of guilt and remorse.

I think it’s fascinating that words exist in other languages which actually capture something so succintly, and in another language you need a full sentence to explain it. It’s just make the very experience immediately relatable because when you know there’s a word for it – you know that you’re not the only one experiencing it.

Of course we all know Deja Vu. I remember reading this fantastic book by Milan Kundera called The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (which I now intend to carry with me to Goa and reread) – which has a short story called ‘Litost’. Litost is an untransalatable Czech word that ‘represents a state of torment caused by the sudden sight of one’s misery’ – Kundera says that he finds it difficult to imagine how one can understand the human soul without it. More on it once I’ve reread it.

Any Hindi words?