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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?

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    Did you realize that the article mentioned the (romanized) Japanese word (aware)? – Earthliŋ May 15 '16 at 13:39
  • Seems like 侘び寂び (わびさび) at least needs a mention here. – presterjohn May 15 '16 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. – Yoichi Oishi May 15 '16 at 21:45
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    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. – Yoichi Oishi May 15 '16 at 22:02
  • @YoichiOishi I see. This reminds me of this question: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/17723/1628 – Earthliŋ May 16 '16 at 14:36
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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.)

  • Does 哀れ really have such a specific meaning? o,o – kuchitsu May 15 '16 at 15:38
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    @kuchitsu I don't think so. Foreign words tend to be presented as mystical and bizarre concepts by a certain kind of English speaker. – Aeon Akechi May 15 '16 at 20:25
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    Googled a bit, maybe they meant 物の哀れ. – kuchitsu May 15 '16 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 May 17 '16 at 17:45

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