5

The article written by Emily Anthes, appearing in the New Yorker, May 12 issue under the title, “The Glossary of Happiness” wraps up with the following paragraph:

Lomas (a lecturer in applied positive psychology at the University of East London) returned to the University of East London and launched the Positive Lexicography Project, an online glossary of untranslatable words. “If you just put them out there and people are aware of them, then—almost like linguistic natural selection—people will find ones that appeal to them, and they might start using them,” Lomas said. If he succeeds, we may stroll through these waning days of spring more aware of aware—the Japanese noun for “the bittersweetness of a brief, fading moment of transcendent beauty.”

I can’t think up a Japanese word (noun) equivalent to the notion, “the bittersweetness of a brief, fading moment of transcendent beauty” in English. Would you suggest me any Japanese counterpart that comes up to your mind?

7
  • 4
    Did you realize that the article mentioned the (romanized) Japanese word (aware)?
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 13:39
  • Seems like 侘び寂び (わびさび) at least needs a mention here. Commented May 15, 2016 at 18:00
  • @Earthing. Gosh! Jumped the gun. I took 'aware' for an English word, 'aware' of awareness, and thought the structure of 'days of spring more aware of aware' is strange. The answer was given int the text. A sour grape for my misreading 哀れ. 'aware' is that 'aware' here in "waning days of spring more aware of aware' is apparently functions as an adjective, but the author is calling it a noun. Commented May 15, 2016 at 21:45
  • 1
    Cont'd. 哀れ on its alone doesn't describe the sense of "the bittersweetness of a brief, fading moment of transcendent beauty.” The author should have added to ものの to 哀れ. Commented May 15, 2016 at 22:02
  • @YoichiOishi I see. This reminds me of this question: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/17723/1628
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 14:36

1 Answer 1

10

The word the writer meant was 哀れ

If he succeeds, we may stroll through these waning days of spring more aware of aware

In English, foreign words are often typeset in italics, and this article follows the convention (although your copypaste did not copy the italics over.)

4
  • Does 哀れ really have such a specific meaning? o,o
    – kuchitsu
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 15:38
  • 4
    @kuchitsu I don't think so. Foreign words tend to be presented as mystical and bizarre concepts by a certain kind of English speaker.
    – Angelos
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 20:25
  • 4
    Googled a bit, maybe they meant 物の哀れ.
    – kuchitsu
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 22:04
  • 哀れ in modern Japanese normally means pitiful, miserable, etc., but in archaic Japanese, 哀れ had positive meanings like impressive, heart-touching, lovely, etc. もののあはれ is a word used today to refer to the archaic definition of 哀れ/あはれ.
    – naruto
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 17:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .